INTERVIEW OF THE MINISTER OF VADYM CHERNYSH BBC NEWS UKRAINE

How to live in «DPR»? Spotlight by Minister and displaced resident

Several million Ukrainians for five years already have been living in another political and social reality, in so-called «People's Republics» of Donbas.

To find out about their way of life BBC News Ukraine talked with the Minister for Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons Vadym Chernysh (the conversation took place in April).

A few points were clarified by former resident of Donetsk, who recently visited the city and shared his impressions of what he’d seen and conversations he had with those living in the city (name will not be disclosed).

How many people are living within occupied territories? 

Vadym Chernysh: 

About 2.7 million, maximum of 2.8 million inhabitants. In general, before the conflict outbreak population reached about 3.7-3.8 million people in the areas that now are occupied. Although none of Ukrainian public authorities has yet obtained accurate statistical data from there, because there is no single official authority. Civil society organizations and international partners assist with information, which can be extrapolated. We do not use statistical data provided by occupying administrations; it is absolutely false.

Displaced resident of Donetsk:

There are not so many people in Donetsk, although it is really hard to say how much less comparing with times before the war. Especially it becomes obvious in the center during evenings. And it is not about deserted streets, but about emptiness that reeks of dark windows; probably half of them on Artema street. There are more cars than people. Almost all with DPR numbers, registration is required. License plates until 2020 can be taken off, some carry those in a trunk. Bike lanes, paving and road kerbs are in perfect condition, city is surrounded by flowers and vegetation. Amidst all this beauty those ghost-quarters with barred windows shops and grassy playgrounds unexpectedly amaze. All former constructions also stopped.

 How many people have died?

Vadym Chernysh: 

The number of Ukrainian citizens who died is about 13 thousand people. In this matter we agree with preliminary estimates of the United Nations, because they work within Government-controlled and non-Government controlled areas. Up to 30 thousand people are injured. These are all Ukrainians who had suffered in five years. In particular, members of illegal armed groups are included among other 13 thousand deceased people. However, this does not include Russian service members, who were secretly taken out and buried. According to various estimates, there are also several thousand of them. Oddly, the President of the Russian Federation classified data about losses several years ago.

(In 2015, Vladimir Putin classified data about military losses of the Russian army «in peacetime during the period of special operations». At the same time, the Kremlin denies participation of its army in combat actions in Donbas, and recognizes only the presence of «Russian volunteers». At the same time Kyiv and international organizations have repeatedly cited evidence of the presence of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the east of Ukraine. Of the latter, the OSCE monitoring mission identified the newest Russian electronic warfare systems «Zhitel» and «Tirada-2» in so-called «LPR».Eds.).

 Where do they work?

Vadym Chernysh: 

Miners do not work full time, just few days a week. People are forced to either leave, or look for illegal business opportunities, times of getting dirty money “kopanky” came back, some cut last water supply pipes, some dismantle electrical cables, and some remove rails. In order to imagine what is happening there, this is shadyarea, which is entirely unrecognized. Or people have to earn money with a rifle in their hands. In general, there is a constant movement of the population. Some moved to Government controlled area in Ukraine. Russians convinced some of the high-class engineers to go to the Russian Federation to work in design bureaus for the Russian defense industry. There are not so many of them, but they are there, some also took their families. A part went to work at mines in Rostov oblast. Or on a rotational basis go to work to the east of the Russian Federation.

Displaced resident of Donetsk:

There are a lot of people in uniform in the city. And everywhere they are campaigning to join them. Also it is said that the only place to earn good money is «State Emergency Service». Therefore, a lot of men go there.


 Companies?

Vadym Chernysh:

Some companies continue working; every industry has something that functions, although not at full capacity. Something has stopped, but they are trying to restart it. For example, «Styrol» in Horlivka; was illegallycarted (During so-called «nationalization» of enterprises, which unrecognized «DPR»  and «LPR» conducted in early 2016. - Eds.).


There was a try to run it and produce some kind of medication. But even on such small volumes there were chemical emissions which scared the whole city. There is a notorious company «Vneshtorgservis», which actually deals with the management of all assets, which were illegally carted from Ukrainian owners. It is registered in South Ossetia. As by original story supposedly former Ukrainian citizen SerhiiKurchenko runs it. But in reality the leads on it are Russians.

Displaced resident of Donetsk:

The «ATB» store has turned into «Pershyirespublikanskyi»«Varus» – into «Parus»«Amstor» was closed.


 Who`s stayed?

Vadym Chernysh:

Demographically speaking, there is a significant predominance of ageing population. Why? Some young people do not want to serve in so-called «army corps», they move to Government controlled areas of Ukraine, or to Russia. Although there are problems with validation of documents, despite all the Decrees by Putin. People in their active age are leaving. Thus, majority of population that requires retirement and social assistance stays there.We do not doubt that Russia, of course sustains it to avoid social upheaval.

(The interview was recorded before a Decree bythe Russian President Putin on the simplified granting of Russian citizenship to residents of certain territories in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.  Eds.)

Displaced resident of Donetsk:

There are a lot of young people in Donetsk, and this is impressive. As they say, there is almost the same intake as before 2014 in schools and day-care facilities. Another thing is that there is a migration from the region and suburbs of Donetsk to its center. Firstly, because suburbs are more rutted. Secondly, center of the town is still beautiful as before, but now it has become more accessible.

Healthcare?

Vadym Chernysh:

There are not enough doctors. For example, in Luhansk oblast, a shortage of doctors and nurses is more than 50%. The average salary in Luhansk medical institutions is around 9,000 Russian rubles (approximately 3,600 UAH). In this case, a person with a rifle gets twice or three times more. Since the healthcare system was ripped, a shortage of medication has been established for patients with resistant forms of tuberculosis. Many people suffer from a lack of insulin; there is not enough medicine for patients with cancer. That side will not accept any help from the Ukrainian Government, only white humanitarian convoy from Russia is allowed to go there. Therefore, under Minsk agreements, the Ukrainian Government is trying to facilitate the delivery of international humanitarian aid. It is funded by sponsors and comes in through neutral organizations.

Displaced resident of Donetsk:

It is difficult to say about the number of doctors in Donetsk. There are more doctors who stayed than left from my friends. After all, at first they were almost the only ones who were paid.

Is there any influence by Yanukovych?

Vadym Chernysh: 

His influence can be assessed as barely worth of attention. The former president is located in Russia and no longer is an independent figure; even if we saw his name somewhere, he would still be «proxis», an intermediary and just the face. We must clearly understand that the Russian authorities are leading there, and independent «Yanukoviches» or «Kurchenkos» cannot exist there. Supervised through a system of intermediaries by various authorities of the Russian Federation.


Is there any influence by Medvedchuk?

Vadym Chernysh: 

Russian authorities simply entrusted Viktor Medvedchuk to voice something, as well as they did with Yanukovych. These are all manipulations on ideas; for example, negotiations «Kyiv-Donetsk-Moscow». But there is no separate Donetsk. In fact, there is Ukraine and there is Moscow, and so they are trying to start talking about autonomisation. The Russian Federation has full influence on the opinion and behavior of people in the occupied territories.And it does not matter to whom they entrust to make any statements.

(In April, Viktor Medvedchukstated that the «DPR» and «LPR» allegedly tentatively agreed on his «peace plan», which envisages direct negotiations «Kyiv-Donetsk-Luhansk-Moscow» and «autonomy of Donbas within Ukraine».  Eds.).

Are changes irreversible?

Vadym Chernysh: 

Many changes have taken place not for the better. It’s been five years children haven’t been learning in the Ukrainian language there; it will be difficult for them to reintegrate into Ukraine if they do not know the language. Economically speaking everything can be returned, all problems can be overcome. There are mechanisms, funds and international partners that will help us revive these oblasts. We also do not see irreversible changes in people's minds. Surveys that have been conducted show that the overwhelming majority of people there, more than two thirds, one way or another connect their future with Ukraine. They want the conflict to end; they want to have a normal job and not to be afraid for their children.

Displaced resident of Donetsk:

In Donetsk, everything is  «respublikanske» «narodne», «made in DPR». Even kids; «Born in DPR» all over it. Only one hour a week Ukrainian language class is taught in schools. But nobody remembers Ukraine any more, except perhaps retirees. The gap between Ukraine and non-Government controlled areas seems to be enormous.



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