AFTER nearly four years of war in eastern Ukraine, and more than 10,000 deaths, reports from international monitors in the region sound like a grim broken record. On January 19th: 340 explosions. On January 20th: 240 explosions. On January 21st: 195 explosions and two middle-aged civilians hit by rifle fire while travelling in a bus near a separatist checkpoint in the town of Olenivka. “One had blood covering the left side of his face and was holding gauze to it and the other had gunshot wounds in his neck and left cheek,” the monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) reported this week. One of the men ended up in hospital; the other died at the site of the attack.
Tag Archives: Ukraine
It’s a very small cup: blue dotted with yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. But for Yelena, it holds a lot of history. It’s a reminder of almost thirty years’ labor, and of the day they ended in summer 2014, when an artillery shell landed on the bread factory where she’d worked all her life in Mariinka, east Ukraine.
Now, the cup sits on a table beside an Orthodox icon in Mariinka’s small, local bakery; a survivor of the on-going war in east Ukraine. “We went back [to the factory] after it was bombed,” Yelena tells me, “and I saw my cup there. I cried. And my little stool was still there… The icon too, our icon. We had a table in the workshop, like now, and it was above the table all the time.”
Tensions erupt between former allies as Mikheil Saakashvili challenges Petro Poroshenko for Ukrainian presidency
The Russians were carrying out massive war games across the border. International statesman had gathered for a conference in Kiev in which Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko warned of a possible attack by Moscow. And, at the same time, in the background, another somewhat extraordinary invasion of the country was under way.
Mikheil Saakashvili, a fugitive from corruption charges in his native Georgia, of which he was once President, is holed up in western Ukraine after forcing his way in from Poland, and threatening a march on Kiev.
If you begin your visit to Poland from Warsaw Central Station, you may think you’ve found yourself in a western European metropolis, no different from Paris or London. Here, you can buy sushi rolls and a kale bioshake — a lunch fitting for the ride to Berlin on the hipster-filled Friday train. On the platforms, white-collar workers await their trains. When panic over air pollution gripped the city, they switched from SUVs to public transport.A few kilometres away lies Warsaw West bus station, and here it’s a different world. You can’t find any kale in this dirty pavilion that saw its last renovation under communism — instead there’s sausage with ketchup and second hand clothes. Tired faces descend from ramshackle buses: Poles coming home from Germany, Austria and Belgium; Ukrainians arriving in Poland. For many of the latter, Warsaw West is their first encounter with the “Europe” of which they dreamt.Poland, a country of 38 million (counting citizens without guest workers), is already home to over one million Ukrainians. Most of them decided to emigrate after military conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine in 2014, when the currency value of the Ukrainian hryvnia plummeted and prices rose.
Pushkin Street has been transformed into a holy bazaar, and it’s crowded. Elbow to elbow, fur hat to fur hat, loudspeakers blaring out the chance to redeem your soul, stock up on groceries, or simply dance, dance, dance to the ecstatic music proclaiming God’s—and Rebbe Nachman’s—eternal greatness.If you want any remote chance of getting to the counter at one of the makeshift falafel or shawarma stands knocked together for the benefit of the tens of thousands of pilgrims who’ve just arrived, you’ve got to bore through a morass of people waving shekels, dollars, and hryvnias like it’s 99-cent-drink night at the local dive bar. It’s a jungle out here, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in Uman, Ukraine, the burial place of the 19th-century Hasidic mystic rabbi known as Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (in Hasidism, “rebbe” is an affectionate term for “rabbi” that also connotes a strong spiritual leadership). Nachman promised redemption for anyone who visited his grave, and for more than 200 years that grave has been the site of a fevered pilgrimage for Jews from around the world. In the past decade, the atmosphere has grown carnivalesque at times, as the followers of Nachman, traditionally Hasidim from religious upbringings, have swelled with former Deadheads, erstwhile Phish Phanatics, reformed criminals, and recovering (and sometimes not) alcoholics and drug addicts. The operative language is Hebrew, though you hear English, French, Yiddish, and Russian. The only ones speaking Ukrainian are the locals, who are allowed onto Pushkin Street if they can prove they live or work in the area, a measure meant, presumably, to ease crowding, but also to prevent violence between the native population and the tens of thousands of once-a-year religious tourists. As a result, Ukrainians are sparse, but they’re not the only ones: The pilgrims are all men. Here and there I notice posters in Hebrew slapped onto telephone poles and synagogue walls: it is forbidden in places where there are large gatherings of men for women to be found!
Quando Lena (il nome è stato modificato) si sveglia, non vede niente. Ha una benda sugli occhi e le mani legate dietro la schiena. La ragazza, una giornalista ucraina di ventidue anni, non sa dove si trova ma, in lontananza, sente rumori e grida. Ha la sensazione di essere “forse in una cantina”. Ha anche sete. È presa dal panico e si mette a urlare. Una guardia entra bruscamente e la colpisce con un fucile “finché non smette”, poi se ne va. Il giorno dopo, sempre senza acqua né cibo, Lena urla ancora. La sua guardia la colpisce ancora. Ogni tanto la afferra per farle un’iniezione. Allora la giovane giornalista comincia a sudare e “perde la nozione del tempo”. Quando non la tormentano, riflette, riscrive la storia. Pensa che avrebbe dovuto dare ascolto ai suoi amici.Loro l’avevano avvertita. Donetsk, nella zona separatista filorussa nell’est dell’Ucraina, è diventato un posto pericoloso per una giornalista, soprattutto se viene da Kiev. “Se non ci va nessuno, il mondo non saprà quello che sta succedendo laggiù”, aveva risposto ai suoi amici. Era il maggio del 2014. Da allora, non passa un giorno senza che si penta della propria decisione.
Sloviansk is a grey city in eastern Ukraine. This was already the case, before pro-Russian separatists occupied it and the Ukrainian army brought it back under Kyiv’s control. But young people are now attempting to add some splashes of colour to the wasteland, not far from the frontline. And not only with paintbrushes. Above all, they want to change people’s mentality.
The Trump administration is facing its first major test on the international stage as volleys of Russian artillery and rockets continue to pound Ukrainian forces in the country’s contested east, reigniting the frozen conflict and killing about a dozen Ukrainian soldiers since Sunday.
The barrages, along with renewed pushes by Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces near the government-held industrial town of Avdiyivka, spiked dramatically on Sunday. The day before, Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin held their first phone call, reportedly talking about forming a new alliance against the Islamic State and working together on a range of other issues.
Vladimir Putin accuses Ukraine of killing Russian servicemen in terrorist attacks in Crimea and warns that the deaths will not be ignored. The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, orders his country’s military to be in a state of combat readiness. Talks over the Minsk agreement, which established a ceasefire of sorts in the vicious conflict, have been put on hold. There are dire predictions that Ukraine is sliding back into war.
The upsurge of this particular episode of violence, and its venue, has come as a surprise. There has been low intensity, but rising, strife in separatist Donetsk and Luhansk in the east over the last few months, but Crimea has not experienced serious military action since it was annexed from Ukraine by the Kremlin in the chaotic aftermath of the Maidan protests.
Over the past year, Ukraine has been falling out of the headlines. Since Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down in July 2014, stories from Ukraine have rarely punched above regional news.
Global media is western-oriented, and Ukraine has been eclipsed by stories seen to have a direct impact on the west — from migration to the US presidential election. For me, as a foreign journalist based in Kiev, this has meant a seemingly endless succession of goodbye parties in recent months, as the news market pushes friends and colleagues who have been through revolution and war on to other bigger stories.