Original article in Russian by A. Kots and D. Steshin
Translated by Alya Bailey / Edited by Alan Bailey
“Nobody wants to go to the Donetsk People’s Republic!” internet warriors—both volunteers and paid ones—are gloating. The Ukrainian authorities conducted a massive propaganda campaign in the ATO area directed against helpless ordinary people. Let us remind you that the day before Kiev suggested having a day long ceasefire in the Debaltsevo area in order to evacuate the civilians from the battle area. The Ukrainian side confirmed that the refugees would be able to choose where to go—either Donetsk or Slavyansk.
Early in the morning a convoy of buses left Donetsk for Debaltsevo. Two OSCE cars accompanied it. We waited for its return to the town of Uglegorsk which is controlled by the Militia.
On Friday it was unusually quiet there although you could hear the distant rumble of artillery in spite of ceasefire that was in place. The streets seemed completely empty. The wind was blowing on the wrecks of destroyed tanks. White curtains were billowing trough broken windows of damaged buildings. Every square metre of the town had signs of heavy combat. The tarmac was scattered with spent bullets and shell splinters. DPR soldiers were digging in on the positions formerly belonging to the Ukraine Army. Sometimes some of the very few remaining residents came here.
“They have no electricity, no water, nothing, so they just come to chat,” a militiaman named Goga said. “We give them some food. The Ukrainian division “Svityaz” used to be located in the boarding school here. They left lots of food and ammunition. Only everything was mined.”
“We are deactivating all those surprises now,” a militiaman named Chechen confirmed, “they left a lot of stuff there.”
Were there any children in the boarding school when the Ukrainians came?
“There weren’t any, but they obviously had to run away from there very quickly. They left all their belongings, the beds were unmade… The Ukrainians made it into the ammunition storage rooms and firing positions. Before leaving, they mined it all—even in the classrooms!”
Near the library we could see a group of elderly ladies. They came here to exchange news and have a look at the strange visitors wearing bulletproofs with the word PRESS on them.
They complained: “We have worked all our lives, and they came and destroyed everything! They said that they had come to defend their land, but it’s not their land. Those Bandera followers have never lived here! Their land is Poland.”
We could hear shooting around the corner. One of the groups of the Sparta Battalion located a sniper in a block of flats who had been pestering them with fire. In fifteen minutes the shooting stopped, mopping-up went on.
Around 16:00 [MSK] we could see the lights of police cars on the horizon from the side of Debaltsevo. Then grey from mud OSCE cars and a long convoy of busses arrived. They moved towards the central square and we could see very soon that they were almost empty. “There are not many people left in Debaltsevo,” one of the drivers named Anatoly told us, “they shot at us when we were leaving, because they knew that nobody would shoot back. Judging by the sound, those were mortars.”
“We found out about buses to Donetsk by accident! We were just passing by the Town Hall and saw them,” a resident of Debaltsevo, Irina, says. “We thought we would have to get to Donetsk via Slavyansk, where the Ukrainians took everybody. So we were very lucky this time.”
Are there a lot of people remaining in the town?
“Yes, there are people. Children as well. They live mostly on humanitarian help given out. They cook outside on bonfires because gas in bottles ran out long time ago.”
How did you find out about the buses to Donetsk? – We ask another lady called Olga.
“Just by chance. We did not care which way to go. In Artyomovsk we just saw the buses to Donetsk. Nobody told us anything.”
Having obtained the ceasefire, the Ukraine side had not kept a single one of its promises: firstly, they opened fire with artillery, secondly, they did not give any choice to the peaceful residents—only using people’s disastrous circumstances for propaganda purposes. Ukrainian mass media has already reported the successful evacuation of over a thousand people to the Kiev controlled territory, and also reported how people did not want to go the “stronghold of separatism”—the DPR.
It looks like they got such a little revenge for the town of Uglegorsk from which nearly everyone preferred to leave for the Donetsk People’s Republic. For some unknown reason Ukraine did not let people go to its territory, which shocked even cold-blooded European observers. Kiev’s PR and propaganda specialists decided to correct the image of Ukraine fighting for its territorial unity on Donbass, and as usual, they do not care for the people.
Eduard Basurin, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Ministry of Defence of DPR:
“The evacuation of the civilians from Debaltsevo to DPR was sabotaged. Only forty people came to the evacuation point because the Ukrainian side did not let people know about a possibility to go to the Donetsk People’s Republic. People did not know anything about it. There was a provocation when we entered Debaltsevo—the fire was coming from the town. The residents only knew about the evacuation to Slavyansk. The buses came in the morning and people left. There are some more people in the town left. They are hiding in basements. There is no gas supply.”
Debaltsevo evacuation sabotaged by the Ukrainian party