News / Europe

Donetsk Russians Say Only Putin Can Save Them

A participant wears a Russian flag during a pro-Russian rally outside the regional administration in Donetsk, March 17, 2014.
A participant wears a Russian flag during a pro-Russian rally outside the regional administration in Donetsk, March 17, 2014.
It is a frigid evening in Donetsk's Lenin Square, but the cold has not deterred a small crowd from maintaining a weeks-long protest against the new Ukraine government in Kyiv. They say they want to follow Crimea and break with Ukraine and join the Russian Federation.

Denis, 70, says the new government in Kyiv is making everyone poorer and the people of eastern Ukraine can't live with the politicians of the capital anymore.

Vera, 62, says she'd like Donetsk to stay in Ukraine but that ethnic Russians are being forced to ask Putin to help because the politicians in Kyiv don't care about the east of Ukraine and they just think of themselves.

Donetsk is in the heart of the Donbass coalfield and is one of Ukraine's major industrial cities. The activists in Lenin Square are demanding the release of an activist who briefly proclaimed himself "people's governor" of the region this month.

And they praise the actions of Russian separatists in Crimea, who stormed Wednesday a Ukrainian naval base in the Crimean city of Sevastopol. This is a day after Crimean leaders signed a treaty with Russia absorbing the peninsula into the Russian Federation after a disputed referendum.

Ukraine's new leaders are becoming increasingly anxious about the protests in the eastern Ukraine cities that are home to large numbers of ethnic Russians. Protests have mounted, and over the weekend violence flared when more than 5,000 pro-Russian protesters roamed central Donetsk smashing doors and windows and forcing entry to government buildings.

Three have died in the recent protests in eastern Ukraine.

Kyiv's politicians claim Moscow has been infiltrating Russian provocateurs to incite much of the agitation - an allegation also leveled by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.  The Kremlin denies this and has warned it is ready to send forces massed on the border to protect ethnic Russians - the initial reason given for seizing Crimea.

Pro-Russian activists deny the claims, flashing their Ukrainian passports to show they come from Donetsk.

The country's new leaders, who replaced President Viktor Yanukovych ousted in February after months of street protests against his rule, are trying to dampen ethnic Russian agitation by offering reforms.

They are promising greater decentralization while preserving the unity of Ukraine, which will give the regions, cities, and districts broad powers and the funding needed for their development.

But one of the first moves by Ukraine's parliament after Yanukovych fled to Russia still rankles here. The lawmakers passed legislation abolishing a law that allows regions to use Russian as a second official language. The acting president vetoed that abolition but ethnic Russians point to it as evidence showing what Kyiv really thinks of them.

Artyom, a 36-year-old small businessman, says it is too late for reforms. Donetsk should be part of the Russian Federation and says that would be best.

Despite President Putin's indication Tuesday that he has no more designs on Ukrainian territory, Ukrainians fear that he may now be preparing more land-grabs of ethnic Russian-dominated areas.

Images from Ukraine

  • Armed Russian sailors walk near the Ukrainian ship Slavutich in Sevastopol, March 20, 2014.
  • The Ukrainian ship Slavutich is seen blocked by two Russian ships at the harbor in Sevastopol, March 20, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian soldier closes an entrance gate at the air force base in the Crimean town of Belbek, March 20, 2014.
  • Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, stand guard at the top of a chimney located near the naval headquarters, with Russian flags installed nearby, in Sevastopol, March 19, 2014.
  • Armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, walk on the territory of the naval headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, March 19, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian naval officer carries his belongings as he walks out of the territory of the naval headquarters, with armed men, believed to be Russian servicemen, seen nearby, in Sevastopol, March 19, 2014.
  • Members of Crimean self-defense units walk in formation while leaving the territory of the naval headquarters in Sevastopol, March 19, 2014.
  • Workers put up a new sign reading "State Council of the Crimean Republic" at the parliament building in Simferopol, March 19, 2014.
  • Workers remove old letters from the Crimea parliament building in Simferopol, March 18, 2014.
  • Pro-Russian people watch a live broadcast of Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech on Crimea in Sevastopol, Crimea, March 18, 2014.

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by: NewGenTime from: Oregon (at Nikolaeyev)
March 23, 2014 10:50 AM
While Russia provides order, the Maidan and the exit of Yanukovich is a rejection of corruption AND Putin's forcing Ukraine away from free and open trade with Europe. Europe is a better deal for Ukraine, and for Russia actually, and Yanukovich's clan system and corruption could have never survived the requirements of the Association agreement with the EU. My favorite factions are the Ultras (futbol fans who do not care about politics though are offended that the police are abusing "Ukrainian citizens" :) and the people of Chasno (translated as "Honesty") who are monitoring the transparency of the reforms and the political change in Kiev...their demands are simple... the process must be open, where the money goes must be transparent, and politicians must not enrich themselves or be millionaires. The USA could benefit from this also :) --- this is the promise of the Maidan and of course the Russian system, the Donetsk mafia, and Yanukovich do not want this... and will use the army to teach the idealist children of the Maidan a lesson in power. I hope their force will fail... Ukraine deserves peace and honesty.

by: free from: earth
March 21, 2014 3:36 AM
I think ukranians are used as tool to fight against RUSSIA. No one care crap about ukraine or freedom or corruption. This is war against russia and putin basically. Western ukranians are stupid people , i undertsand that they want to be part of europe. Why not just divide ukraine and move any ukranian from east to west and move any russians live in west to east and spit ukraine. This is only way to solve it. West wants every country as slave state like greek. This is about controlling the world. If i am in ukraine i will join russia. Because longer they are with ukraine it going to be brutal war because WEST will supply arms to hurt russia. Ukraininas is only people going to die for nothing except for their stupity of thinking they can be with WEST. its like your kid calling someone as father. Russia will not allow it. No country allow it. Because if russia allows NATO will put missiles in Ukraine against russia. WEST do not care first nuke hits ukraine. Seriously ukraine wake up. Eastern ukraine just join russia and stay alive.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
March 19, 2014 1:30 PM
Riots have been incited in Libya, Egypt, Algeria, Turkey and Tunisia and they have all in one way or another failed to achieve the protagonist's agenda. In Syria, the story is different. In Ukraine it has taken a different turn so that those inciting the protests seem be having a rethink. So they now think someone paying them in their own coin by playing into their 18yard box when a spillover of their stock in Kiev into Donetsk begins to stare them in the face worrying whether Russia is going to cash in on it to equally annex further lands. But the gentleman Putin says that's not his ball game. Maybe we should agree with him and let the situation be. But really, what should be the fate of those Russians still in Ukraine itching to rejoin their kits and kins in Russia? Continuing to hold them to Ukraine against their will, does it augur well for democracy?
In Response

by: Anonymous from: Ukraine
March 19, 2014 1:43 PM
>>Continuing to hold them to Ukraine against their will, does it augur well for democracy? well, the majority of those who wanted to be in Russia already immigrated there. It's hardly believable that there are too many pro-Russian, most of them are old people who want Russian pensions.

by: Anna from: Donetsk
March 19, 2014 12:56 PM
why there is any opposite opinion? I'm sure (coz i'm local) that 90% dont want to become the part of Russia! many of them didnt support maidan, but at the same time they feel satisfied to be Ukrainians. And they also dont think that is required to come on rally to main square to shout about it! this is norm! Donetsk - is Ukraine!
In Response

by: Roman from: Donetsk
March 20, 2014 7:01 AM
Of course I haven't any material proves of the election results in Crimea, but all people that I know from Crimea are now really fantastically glad that they voted to join Russia. And I don't know anyone who voted against joining.
In Response

by: Roman from: Belarus
March 20, 2014 2:09 AM
Ok. And can you say about Crimea? Is it real will of people to join Russia or it's just rigged election?
In Response

by: Roman from: Donetsk
March 19, 2014 11:34 PM
Me, all my relatives, all my friends and acuaintances and their relatives, friends and acuaintances and so on are just tired from that 20-year failed experiment off so-called independence in Ukraine! It brought to russians who are the most part of the population of eastern region nothing but ruin and hoplessness. We want to reunite with Russia again!

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