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…