Original: El Murid LiveJournal (Anatoliy Nesmeyanov)
Translated from Russian by Gleb Bazov / Edited by @ApathyKills & @GBabeuf
My status in Donetsk was wholly undefined. Igor Ivanovich allowed me to be present virtually everywhere (except for those places that were strictly out-of-bounds, and about which I anyway had no knowledge). Just in case, I was given a Permit that said pretty much the same thing: identity unknown, but assistance compulsory.
All this enabled me to be really quite free in taking a look at everything within my reach. Most of all, it allowed me to speak freely with people of all ranks. And here my impression is entirely unequivocal—not only are these people all certain of their victory, but they also understand it in exactly the same way. All of them are convinced they will finish this war in Kiev. They say this without pathos and without slogans; they simply state it as a fact. None have any doubts that this is how the war will end.
With respect to Russia, the opinions I encountered varied widely. If we were to generalize—they continue to hope for Russia’s aid, but no longer expect it. With respect to Crimea, the opinion of the vast majority showed a similar unanimity—all of them tend to think that Russia’s key mistake was choosing not to march directly on Kiev, when the matter could have been closed once and for all while the Junta was still extremely weak.
At the same time, the image of “Vatniks” [Note: derogatory term derived from a Soviet-era quilted jacket], so cherished by Maidan propaganda, turned out, on closer inspection, to be a myth. The Militia contains a whole host of people with higher education. These are not mere managers or lawyers, but technicians and practitioners. Strelkov’s aide is a maths teacher; the favourite pastime of his personal guard is not cards, but chess—and, in the opinion of this amateur, at a fairly high level. Although officers and commanders appear outwardly quite unpresentable (scarcely surprising, given their daily field activities), their sound judgment and broad knowledge of a multitude subjects would put to shame any Moscow or Kiev kreakl [Note: a Russianized portmanteau of the words “creative” and “class”, used primarily in a sarcastic manner].
In contrast to the carefully preprepared image of the Militia as gangs of some kind of Vlasovtsy, the people I encountered spoke little of politics. Their personal views and preferences are not expressed and are subordinated to the main goal—victory. For these people, all the rest is at this time quite immaterial.
Strelkov has introduced awards and ranks—and he distributes them rather sparingly. Only truly heroic feats gain recognition. Equally, these awards have yet to find many of their heroes. It was actually during my trip to the border that my escort tried to call Donetsk to urgently request an award for a fighter who,in three months of combat, had shot down four enemy aircraft. As I understood it, these were two helicopters, a drone and an aeroplane. For all this he received an award of a thousand hryvnia. My escort urged that the combatant’s call-sign be recorded, so that he could be awarded the Cross of St. George.
In general, as always happens in a Russian army, all shortages are fully compensated for by ordinary, everyday heroism. Commanders take care of their men, and any wounded become the concern of all. I cannot say that I saw everything, but I am talking here of personal impressions.
I was also able to have a discussion with a Ukrainian serviceman. He was, in fact, Ukrainian military—a captain of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. I could not say that he was a fanatical Banderovets, but he was absolutely convinced that he was fighting against Russia. He was not at all thrilled with the Kiev authorities, and did not hide his attitude toward them, but he would obey his orders to the end. Perhaps this is an isolated factoid, from which it is impossible to make far-reaching conclusions, but I had no other interaction with the Ukrainian military.
As for the common people, I can only say that they have become inured to the war. As with every other cataclysm. We stopped over in Torez and spoke to a local grandmother who was carrying something to her daughter and grandson. She hates Kiev with all her heart. She hates the war and the Banderovtsy too. Considering that even in peacetime Torez looks like a ghost town, her fatalism is to some extent understandable. The war has endangered the lives of these people, but their lives were hopeless even without war.
The Militiamen at the checkpoint in Snezhnoye are by and large serious and mature men. Their hatred of Kiev and its butchers is almost palpable. The fact that they have taken up arms shows that they finally could not take anymore. Almost every one of them has a grenade at the ready, which they consider to be their ultima ratio. They entertain no possibility of surrender. There are also younger women and men, but I think even they understand that this no longer is a play fight.
On one of the trips around the city and to the suburbs—in the direction of Maryinka—I was taken by a person who reads my work and who volunteered his help. He is preparing to join the ranks of the Militia as soon as he puts his current affairs in order. He is not in good health, but is ready to do any work that he is capable of.
There were also others who were more cautious. More neutral, and sometimes even hostile to the DPR. They did not pour out their souls to me, but it was evident that they clearly did not support the new authorities. Nevertheless, I cannot say that I met many of them. Most live strictly in accordance with the famous song by Chaif, “Oy-yo”: ‘On the TV they tell me how to live/I’ve had enough!/It can’t be worse than it was before!’; that is their main theme—though it may well be that they are wrong.