ESTRAGON: I can't go on like this. VLADIMIR: That's what you think. ― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
There was some interesting news from the American capital. It seems that, after Madame Zelenska addressed the American Congress (receiving the familiar standing ove that all members of the Zelensky family have come to expect), she unexpectedly disappeared for a couple of hours. Police and secret service were frantic, trying to find her. Then they heard a commotion down the street, it seems there is an important crossroads near an exit off the highway. One side of the street is normally inhabited by a couple of bums named Didi and Gogo; the other side by the blind Pozzo and his mute sidekick Lucky; all four plying their trade as beggars and wheedling unfortunate motorists stuck at the red light.
Well, as it turns out, Pozzo/Lucky were temporarily absent on their lunch break, and Madame Zelenska had simply nipped in and taken their patch, aggressively schnorring money from passing cars. When the regulars returned, an altercation arose, with the heretofore mute Lucky screaming: “This is our patch! You can’t take our patch!” Zelenska was no slouch herself, trading punches with the homeless veterans, and cussing like a true Ukrainian: “I need this fucking money more than you do, you fucking bums!” Capital police were able to sort it out and escort the First Lady to her waiting limousine. The cops issued a citation and warning to Didi and Gogo. They promised to leave the area, but then they didn’t. You literally can’t make this stuff up. (Well, I sort of did.) But now onto our real story..
We have spoken before about the “shadow administrations” whereby there is a Ukrainian Governor for, say, Crimea (which has been 100% Russian-controlled since 2014); or Lugansk Oblast (which is also 100% Russian now). In the case of Donetsk Oblast, the Russians don’t completely control the whole enchilada just yet; and so we could call it a case of “dual power”, rather than “shadow” or “virtual” government. For that portion of Donetsk still under the Ukrainians, the head of the Donetsk Oblast Military Administration is a man named Pavel Kirilenko. It’s hard to tell, because his hair is in a crew cut, but it appears that Pavel Alexandrovich is a redhead. What Russians call a ryzhy (“russet”). To me, he even looks (if you squint) a little bit like Prince Harry of England.
Kirilenko was put in charge of evacuating Donetsk residents, in preparation for the expected eventual breakdown of the Donbass defense line; that’s when the Russian Mongolian-Tatar hordes will come storming in to take Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, raping and looting all the way. “But the tempo of evacuation is too slow,” Pasha was heard to complain. He was able to convince only around 300-350 people to get on the buses and leave for the West. “And this is in relation to 340,000 residents living in the Donetsk Oblast.”
Why so few? he was asked by reporters from the Ukrainian site strana.ua. “I think that among those who don’t want to go, there are some who are loyal to the enemy. But believe me, we are going to deal with these people, as are our law-enforcement organs. For others, their motives are unknown. But trust me, we will be taking firmer measures.”
Oddly enough, according to his Russian wiki, which I linked above, Pavel’s parents and older brother reside in the Donetsk Peoples Republic. In fact, older brother Evgeny, who is the spitting image, defected from Ukrainian security services (in 2014) to the DPR counterparts, and now works as an operative in the Minister of State Security in DPR. I am guessing that family reunions and holiday dinners might be awkward sometimes, in this family.
But this isn’t the real story either, I just like a bit of family gossip every now and then. The real story is about the Donetsk residents, and why they don’t want to be forcibly evacuated against their will. I mean, I don’t know international law all that well, but don’t human beings have a right to stay in their own homes and even be shelled to death, if that is their personal choice? This piece adds more detail to the drama. The reporters are Artur Priymak, Darya Volkova and Alyona Zadorozhnaya.
The Mayor of Kramatorsk (still under the Ukrainian heel) is a man named Alexander Goncharenko. He has a similar complaint to Kirilenko’s: He went to all the trouble of ordering a bus to evacuate people to the city of Pokrovsk; but hardly anybody showed up to take advantage. “We are not seeing a flood of people wishing to leave,” he reported laconically.
The Mood In Kramatorsk
An anonymous blogger, from the Telegram channel called “I love Kramatorsk” describes the mood in the city. This person works at the main industry there, Energo-Mash-Spets-Stal (Energy Machine Special Steel, Энергомашспецсталь, or ЭМСС): “The factory, it goes without saying, has long been demolished and everything stolen that wasn’t nailed down. The pensioners have parked themselves in the office space, behind those old fat monitors. [cathode ray tube monitors?] At the factory everybody is waiting for the Russians to arrive and put ЭМСС back into production again, for the purposes of the Russian army. They believe they will soon be repairing Russian tanks, and then they will have bread on the table again.”
The hope is that the Russians will hire local residents from Kramatorsk and put them back to work, once the factory has been repaired. Another commenter on the same site reassures the others: “There is no Ukraine any more. Kramatorsk and ЭМСС exist, have always existed, and will exist in the future. The Russians will not do us any harm.”
Although the Kiev press demonizes the Russian soldiers, calling them beasts and “orcs” who rape and loot everybody, most of the Donbass population still roots for the Russian army and waits for their arrival, according to pundit Vladimir Kornilov: “People are ready to take a risk for the sake of a peaceful future. Many are sitting in their basements, even knowing that their homes could become the center of a battlefield at any time. But they also understand something else: If they make the decision to evacuate to the rear, for example to Zaporozhie, then they might miss out on the moment when peace breaks out in their town and everything returns to normal. And they might find themselves stuck on the other side of the front [as the fighting continues elsewhere]. And then they might have to evacuate again, even further west, who knows where, with the dubious status of a refugee, without a roof or a home.” Kornilov describes these awful dilemmas very well. Even putting politics and loyalties aside, one can put oneself into the shoes of these people and try to imagine what one would do, which decision to make, in their place.
Vitaly Kiselev, Assistant Minister of Internal Affairs for the LPR, communicated that the Ukrainian National Police have tried to forcibly remove peaceful civilians from the war zone, to areas farther west. “But more than 80% of the residents have declared that they don’t want to leave their homes. People are afraid to just blurt out the truth, namely that they are waiting for us.”
Recently a pro-Ukrainian blogger, a radical Nationalist named Kirill Sazonov, appeared on TV, one of the Kiev channels, with an interview dedicated to the battle of Lisichansk. Sazonov’s theory why the people don’t want to evacuate is because they are “vata” [a derogatory word that Ukrainian Nationalists used for Russians, it comes from the word for the kind of wadding that Russian peasants wear in their boots, for example; the American equivalent would be something like “hick”]. Sazonov: “If 30 years of independence has not instilled any kind of loyalty into these people, or taught them to love Ukraine, then they are hopeless, and it is pointless to even talk to them.”
Sazonov is right. It is possible to teach people to hate, but you cannot teach them to love.
Caught Between A Rock And…
Moving on to Nikolaev, and our old friend Governor Vitaly Kim. Who, true to his word, is conducting purges of people suspected of loving Russia instead of the Ukraine. According to Larisa Shesler, a political dissident who hails from that region: “I can state with complete certainty, that Nikolaev was, and remains, a Russian city. The vast majority of people there are waiting for the Russian army. A large number of people have been arrested, their guilt consists only of the fact that they have expressed a positive attitude about Russia.” Shesler, who is involved in humanitarian causes including helping refugees, goes on to talk about the logistics involved in evacuation, and why it isn’t always just a simplistic political decision:
“There are people who might want to evacuate out of the Donbass or Nikolaev, but they face a host of problems. The Kiev government should be in a position to organize transport for them, but they rarely do. But the main thing is that they do not provide living assistance or housing to people once they have arrived in the western regions of the Ukraine. Earlier [in the war] refugees were housed in schools and other public places, but nowadays they are expelling them from those places. Therefore people understand that, if they decide to leave, then they are going to be homeless.” Shesler accuses the Kiev government of not giving a fig about their own citizens: “During these months of the war, people have been able to see with their own eyes, and hear all the stories from their relatives and acquaintances, that the Kiev government assumes no responsibility for their own citizens. Therefore, the only people actually evacuating are those who are wealthy enough to take care of themselves, or those who are very ideologically supportive of the Kiev regime.”
The rest of the people will just stay in their homes for the time being. And wait…
So we have gone from Ukrainian forces wanting locals to stay to provide cover for their defence, to wanting Ukrainians to leave. Which suggests several things.
First an acceptance that Ukraine can no longer put up any real resistance to Russian advances – they neither have the man power nor the pre-dug in positions which were built over an 8 year preparation for the planned (and announced last year) attack on Donbas. So hostages are no longer needed – indeed I wonder what happens when they withdraw deeper and the locals are no longer hated Russian speakers but their own Ukrainian speaking grandparents.
And secondly the antagonism of the state for all Eastern Ukrainians (not just those actively rebelling) is becoming even clearer. (I’m sure you are getting your story from pro-Russian channels which want this story to come across – but it is the right time to tell it).
From Kiev’s point of view it is not paranoia to believe you are being betrayed by grandmothers in small villages and by SBU officials in big cities – they certainly are. But other than express their anger with violence there is little they can do about it.
Thanks for noticing the contradiction between the Ukrainian army’s previous use of civilians as human shields, and now the local governments wanting to evacuate civilians from the future battlegrounds.
I don’t quite know what to make of it myself. Maybe a different set of people calling the shots. Maybe some of them even want to do the right thing, and try to get some civilians out of harm’s way? That would be giving them the benefit of the doubt.
US just pulled the plug on Ukraine
It has been amazingly unchanged for 5 months and dropped 25% today.
Despite what Bloomberg says, the Ukrainian central bank could never have held the UAH steady for 5 months on their own. It was the Fed (or they strong armed the IMF into it).
ECB or Ukraine itself would have kept it steady with the Euro not the dollar (dollar outpaced Euro by 10% over 5 months).
You think Elena Zelenska was not convincing enough when she begged the U.S. Congress for MO MONEY! ?
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yalensis, have you ever considered writing a collection of short stories? I would certainly read it cover to cover! Your opening section of this post is I think totally intriguing and excellently funny. Many years ago I started reading a collection of short stories by this author Lydia Davis, and felt somehow reminded of them while pondering how to phrase my comment (or at least reminded of the impression I had of her stories when I read them those years ago. I might have a horribly incorrect memory of them so if you happen to read any of them and don’t like them, please don’t take offense! But if you happen to read any of them and do like them, please do feel flattered if you like! Or maybe you’ve already read them too.. or don’t care at all 🙂 )
Hey thanks, square coats! I admit I have not read any stories by Lydia Davis (or even heard of her), but if you consider my “work” (such as it is) reminiscent of hers, then I feel flattered. I will have to check her out.
I’m glad you liked that little story about Madame Zelenska. It just sort of came to me when I was taking my morning shower. (Where I do my best thinking!) Originally the post was just going to be a dry one, about the Donbass residents waiting to be rescued. And then “waiting for…” reminded me of Waiting for Godot. And then, in a snap of inspiration I combined that meme with Zelenska’s trip to Washington to schnorr for money; and it was only a small leap from there to put her with Beckett’s hobos on the street.
Which, by the way, and I don’t know if you live in the U.S., but in the state where I live, you can hardly drive by a single intersection without seeing these guys standing there with their home-made signs and asking for money. Some of them are con-men for sure, but it’s still a sign of the decay of the American economy, seems like half the country lives in poverty now.
I definitely agree! In my state in the area where I live (immediately outside the biggest city/capital) there’s several intersections with people asking for money for as long as I can remember (different people over the years though). More often it seems people stand outside convenience stores. I think maybe because my state is definitely not known for being friendly! and so most likely intercepting people on foot is the only way to not be 100% ignored..
This might be a bit outside your area of expertise since you don’t live there, but what’s your sense of the risk to personal possessions when someone evacuates their home in the embattled parts of Ukraine? That might explain some of the reluctance to leave. You read lots of blogs and Fakebook info from the area, I presume, so you’d have a better feel for the zeitgeist than I do. If someone goes west (or east) is their place going to be ransacked by soldiers, or light-touch pilfered by neighbours/Roma/common crims? I realise there’s no blanket way to say, because circumstances will vary. Do you think that people remaining in an area will keep an eye on things in their street and come out yelling (maybe with a gun in hand) if they see something suss going on? For that matter, how much does the average Ukrainian have that’s worth stealing but is too bulky to take with them? One of the reasons I like to watch Utoob videos by that Russian-speaking American bloke who follows the Allied troops is because his footage shows what life looks like there. I’m often more absorbed in the background than with who he’s talking to. When he’s in a country village, seeing the houses, and the interiors, is fascinating. Not to be insulting to Ukraine, but the homes/streets/furnishings look like America would have in the 1940s. Fair enough, they’re at a different stage of development and they would have been pulverised during WW II, so not possible to have the fancy schmancy plastic suburbs of the USA. Seeing the cookstoves, wooden furniture and other things inside makes me flash back to the 1960s when my mom would have me stay for a few weeks on my uncle’s tobacco farm in southern Maryland, so I could understand how the country people lived. When a Ukrainian has to decide whether to accept the offer to relocate until things settle down, is there going to be anything worth coming back to, even if it’s 1960s-style living? It’s hard enough to have to run for your life if you think there will be nothing much to return to. And that’s if an explosive doesn’t hit your house or flat.
Hey, Bukko, I don’t really have an answer to your question. But I think it’s a fair guess that if you have to leave your stuff behind, it’s not going to be waiting for you if and when you get back. I am also fascinated by those videos showing ordinary people in those areas. Seems like a lot of people are very poor, they don’t have much, but they are hardy and resourceful. Ironically, being poor means that you value what little stuff you have. Like, a well-off person wouldn’t care about losing some plates or silverware, they can always buy more, but a poor person would take better care of it. Which is why, I imagine, they try to lug as much stuff as they can carry, when they evacuate. Russians and Ukrainians are famous for using these big soft suitcases decorated in plaid designs, they are a kind of carpetbag that can be stretched out to hold an ungodly number of stuff!