In this live blog, at the heart of our project we’ve called “Ukraine Stories”, Ukrainian and Russian journalists write about the harsh living conditions that the Russian invasion has inflicted on them. We cannot always verify the events described in their articles, but their short reports and feature stories describe two countries in the turmoil of war.
A word from editors
Good morning, it is Friday 13 May and Day 79 of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine. The Russian occupiers are continuing to try to capture the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, while further north in the Donetsk region, Russian forces may be abandoning efforts at a wide encirclement of Ukrainian troops along the Izyum-Slovyansk-Debaltseve line in favour of shallower encirclements of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk. In Luhansk the governor claimed Russia sustained heavy losses again trying to cross the Siversky Donets river, a claim backed up by the British Ministry of Defence.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive around Kharkiv is also forcing the Russian command to make hard choices. Finally, Russian forces are strengthening their position on Snake Island in an effort to block Ukrainian maritime communications and capabilities on the approaches to Odesa.
Meanwhile in the US, the 40 billion dollar aid package to fortify Ukraine’s defences against the Russian invasion won’t reach President Joe Biden’s desk this week, as Republican Senator Rand Paul, defying his party as the package has bipartisan support, says it’s too expensive and needs independent supervision. Current US funding for Ukraine runs out soon.
And yesterday afternoon in Geneva, UN Human Rights Council members on Thursday backed an investigation into alleged abuses committed by Russian troops in the Kyiv region, which could amount to war crimes. You can read the story here.
Today on our blog, we kick off with a story from one of our journalists learning to settle into a new life in the UK.
‘Learn to accept help with dignity,’ Ukrainian refugee in the UK
Millions of Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes due to Russian aggression. Now they have to look for work, raise their children and rebuild their lives in different parts of the world. For Ukrainian journalist Olha Holovina, that journey took her to the UK.
By Olha Holovina, 13.05.2022
My son and I arrived in the UK on 12 April under the government sponsorship programme. In mid-March, it became clear that it was dangerous to return to Kyiv in the near future and it was not possible to work remotely for my previous job. When a Russian missile hit the airport for the second time in Lutsk, where I was staying at the time, I decided to apply for a British visa. I thought it would be easier to find a job, because of my good level of English; my son will go to school and we will be together.
The journey there was not easy. On top of that, you need to be prepared for the fact that life in the UK is not cheap. However, ordinary Britons are happy to help.
My sponsor, who agreed to take my son and I, lives in the suburbs of Northampton, in Duston. Lucinda set up a garden house for us, which borders her house. It had everything we needed. The refrigerator was filled with food before our arrival, a Ukrainian flag on the wall, a photo of my family on the table, which the hostess had printed out and placed in a frame.
But finding a job is harder. Most Ukrainian women are offered cleaning or work in warehouses. The minimum payment is £9.50 per hour. Our people agree to such conditions, because we need to live on something and we are not used to sitting idle.
Here is another escape story from an occupied Ukrainian city. Teacher Hanna But lived in the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol for 30 years, 20 of them as a teacher engaged with her community and, since 2014, contributing to the war effort. After Russian troops occupied Melitopol, she remained for 70 days in protest with other residents. But it simply became too dangerous to stay
‘Soviet collapse brought me to Melitopol, now the Red Flag flies there again’
by Kateryna Kyselova, 13.05.2022
Hanna But’s social media profile is a riot of yellow and blue; a teacher in the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol and active in the community for thirty years, in 2014 she went to war, supporting the army in her own way. But then the war was far away. When it arrived in Melitopol in February 2022 it was sudden. Hanna was determined to stay and protest against the Russian occupation. She stayed for 70 days.
Her house is like a Ukrainian museum, so any Russian stepping into her home would probably arrest her, like one of her students. “Russian soldiers spoke to him, he answered in Ukrainian. They taped him up, put a bag over his head, beat him and threw him on the road out of the city. The boy came home on foot all in bruises.”
Hanna was active in demonstrations against the occupation until 18 March when armed Russian soldiers cleared them from the streets.
“Suddenly one starts swearing, saying Melitopol is ugly. My daughter Kristina shot back: “Why did you come here then?” “I got a letter from a kid asking to free him”, he said. Then a woman came up shouting the war was all our fault, because Ukrainians were “nazis”, bombing Donbas for 8 years. It was our last pro-Ukrainian meeting in occupied Melitopol”.
Hanna is not from Melitopol, and when she came here in 1991 from the west she was surprised to find it was a Russian-speaking city. She threw herself into all things Ukrainian, at the very moment Ukraine was being reborn from the Soviet rubble. Hanna had heard people in Melitopol calling her “nazi” before but hadn’t been afraid to post photos of those Ukrainian demonstrations in Melitopol. Now it would only be a matter of time before the wrong person saw them.
“With our Ukrainian patriotism we won’t survive here,” said her daughter Kristina, but then came the final straw…
Read the full story in English here.
Russian theatre director: ‘We are used to violence’
By Tatiana Frolova, 13.05.2022
“Our last play "Happiness" in 2021, was held in Komsomolsk only for friends – those who, in theory, would not denounce us. Now we can't even perform in front of friends,” says Tatiana Frolova, director of Russian theatre group KnAM.
For the last 30 years, Tatiana’s theatre group has been creating controversial works demonstrating their opposition to the Russian regime and Soviet totalitarianism. Banned from stages in their own country, they are a big success in Europe. The company and its five performers have toured in France, Switzerland, and Germany, performing at festivals including Sens Interdits in Lyon, part of the Festival International de Théâtre. Experimental, multimedia, collective and – for the last dozen years – focused on documentary theatre, KnAM’s work is based on the collection of life stories.
According to Tatiana, the atmosphere in Russia is riddled with fear and violence.
“Оnce we heard after the performance that an elderly woman asked her companion: “Aren't we going to be imprisoned for what we just saw?” And I thought then. “Yes, you never left this prison, the mop is still chained to your legs, but you have adapted to walk with it, eat and even sleep peacefully with it”, she says.
Read about it in the full article.
Occupying holidays. Report on the "Republic Day" in Starobilsk
In the midst of the war, when Ukrainians are dying every day due to Russian aggression, the occupiers celebrated Victory Day in almost all captured cities. This day in Russia has now turned from a symbol of overcoming Nazism into a testament to imperial strength. Some collaborators went even further and invented their own new holidays. In reality, it often looks tragicomic. Our journalist Ksenia Novitska tells about a similar action in Starobilsk in the Luhansk region.
By Ksenia Novitska, 13.05.2022
With each passing day, the "new republic" continues to amaze. On the bones of Ukrainian military and civilians, they staged a real "victory" holiday on 9 May in occupied Starobilsk. The were songs, rallies, flower-laying and everywhere Russians flags and St. George's ribbons. The real culmination was the "opening of a repaired monolith to a Russian soldier", which was to be demolished soon, but instead was clumsily painted.
After this celebration the occupiers went further. On 12 May, they raised the flag of the pseudo-republic on a fictional “holiday” – the Republic Day. They invited their "leaders", collaborators and fans of the “Russian world”. When I saw a photo from this festival on the "official resources" of the invaders, my world broke. There I recognised my colleagues – two young women I worked with for five years. They were there, on this so-called “Republic Day”, all dressed up and smiling. How could it be? A week later, one of them wrote to me that she could not stand living in occupation, looking at their flags, and living there. Yesterday she celebrated the holiday of the occupiers. I don't know if the propaganda works like that, if they've been like that all their lives and so cleverly hid it.
In Svatovo, a small village 50 km from Starobilsk, even passports of the “Luhansk People's Republic” were presented on “Republic Day”. And the newly-appointed "leaders" of the administration received it with a smile on their faces. And this is at a time when the invaders are taking computer equipment out of schools, medical equipment from hospitals, children are left without access to normal education. And pensioners stand in daily queues for the "Russian pension". Yes, you can imagine, they started issuing Russian handouts. As much as 15,700 rubles (235 euros) for two months. I'm glad I know a lot of retirees who spit on this show and don't take that bloody money.
Meanwhile from Russia…
The war in Ukraine has worsened the situation with the spread of HIV in Russia
The so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine has deprived patients of access to antiretroviral therapy, the Russian media “Takie Dela” reports, citing analysts from the “If You're Exact” (EBT) project of the Need for Help Foundation.
There is no unified data on the real number of people living with HIV in Russia. According to Rospotrebnadzor, Russia's consumer protection watchdog, 1.1 million people with HIV were registered in Russia at the end of 2021.
In 2022, the availability of HIV therapy worsened as a result of Russia's war in Ukraine. Due to sanctions and problems with air travel between Russia and other countries, it is more difficult to obtain medications. In addition, people are afraid to return home, to places where hostilities may erupt, and are deprived of medications that were available to them in their home region. For Ukrainian refugees in Russia, activists and patient organisations have launched projects to help them receive therapy on time.
Nine Russian army enlistment offices burnt
Nine Russian army enlistment offices have been burnt since the start of the war in Ukraine. According to media outlet Om1.ru, citing two anonymous sources, several Molotov cocktails were thrown at night at a military registration and enlistment office in Omsk on 12 May. Official agencies declined to comment.
Eyewitnesses told the publication about the strong smell of kerosene and working forensics. This is the ninth known case in Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine: the burning of military enlistment offices was reported in Cherepovets, Nizhnevartovsk, Moscow, Mordovia, Voronezh, Moscow Region, Sverdlovsk Region and Ivanovo Region.
A new symbol of Russian propaganda: a boy named Lyosha
The Russian Defence Ministry launched #SpasiboLyosha ("thank you, Lyosha"). Stories about the little boy from the border town of Belgorod were broadcast on federal channels on 10 May, according to the Telegram channel Horizontal Russia. They told of a boy, who every time runs to meet the military equipment passing by his house. According to Lyosha's mother, they were planning to leave because of the shelling, but the boy did not want to leave the soldiers.
Earlier, the Russian authorities made a resident of Ukraine a symbol of patriotism, who came out with a banner of the USSR to Ukrainians, mistaking them for Russians. Later, in a video she spoke out against the special operation. After that Voronezh authorities removed her sculpture and moved it to another place.
A word from editors
Good morning. We are on the 78th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian prosecutors are all set to try three alleged Russian war criminals. Three prisoners of war are accused of attacking or killing civilians, with another allegedly killing a man then repeatedly raping his wife, who they want to prosecute in absentia.
Meanwhile, the Russians launched several airstrikes on schools in the city of Novgorod-Siversky, in the Chernihiv region. There are dead and wounded, according to regional officials.
The Russian army is continuing its active offensive in the Eastern Operational Zone to establish complete control over the Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kherson regions and maintain the land corridor with the temporarily occupied Crimea. However, some analysts suggest the northern and central Donbas front are close to a stalemate. The Kharkiv and Mykolaiv regions are under severe attack too.
The hero city of Mykolaiv is critical in the southern region of Ukraine and controls the vital approach for the Russian push on the port city of Odesa. Its resistance comes at a terrible price, reports our local correspondent.
Broken but not beaten: waterless Mykolaiv fights on
by Оleksii Platonov, 12.05.2022
It is a city of half a million people, the administrative centre – and one of the largest economic centres – in Ukraine. In the second half of the twentieth century it was one of the most important regions of Soviet shipbuilding (building ships Russia is today using to fire missiles deep into Ukraine - ed.). In 2022, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it was awarded the title of Hero City. Its location on Ukraine’s southern steppe also makes it essential for wheat production. But today, its primary importance is acting as the final major bastion against Russia taking the whole south.
On the morning of 24 February, 2022, the Russians struck the city's military infrastructure with missiles. Kulbakino airfield was shelled, and a fire broke out in a fuel warehouse after being hot by rockets. In the city, work on protection was actively developed, and detachments of the territorial defence has been organising the strengthening of fortifications.
At the time of writing, for almost a month and a half, rocket and bomb strikes of varying intensity have been carried out in the city and region. Partially or completely destroyed facilities include the airport, railway station, medical institutions, playgrounds, schools, kindergartens, residential buildings, industrial premises and enterprises.
Russia’s seeming determination to efface every trace of Ukraine or symbol of its statehood was underlined on 29 March when the central section of the Mykolaiv regional public administration building, from the first to the ninth floor, was destroyed. Many people's bodies were pulled out from under the rubble, and more than thirty people were injured.
Water under attack. On 12 April, the Russians damaged a water supply system in the Kherson region, leaving Mykolayiv’s half a million people without running water. Under constant shelling, local people were able to organise the delivery and distribution of water supplies. Authorities and volunteers have delivered tankers and bottled water to every district of the city, and despite the long queues, people understand the problem. Other regions joined the water supply effort, in particular, Odesa sent water trains. Zhytomyr residents also pitched in to help with water delivery. The more resourceful organised the collection of rainwater in large quantities.
To date in Mykolaiv, two mobile systems for water purification have been delivered. One such system at full capacity can purify 24 tons of water per day. But the fact remains that a major city’s water system is inoperative and heavily damaged.
Despite its partial isolation, Mykolaiv is being provided with humanitarian and volunteer assistance from virtually all of Ukraine’s regions. The supply of food and basic necessities from Western Ukraine, Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Lviv has been established. Allies from Poland and other countries deliver tons of products, including medicines and other goods. Volunteer and religious organisations are also providing food to all people in need. Free bread is being distributed.
In Mykolaiv all regular services like medicine, police, emergency firefighters and rescuers, and communal services like garbage collection are working near normally. There are grocery stores and markets. Transport is operating normally, although there are some problems with the city's fuel supply. Almost all municipal institutions are providing citizens with administrative services, mobile communication and the internet.
One of our reporters recently evacuated to Kosovo where she joined a group of fellow Ukrainian journalists being hosted and sponsored by the Kosovan government. Despite this welcome Ukraine is yet to recognise Kosovo’s statehood. Liudmyla Makei reports.
Kosovo supports Ukraine, which does not recognise its independence
by Liudmyla Makei, 12.05.2022
Today, there are almost no countries in Europe or internationally that are not united against Russia over its war on Ukraine. Europe and the United States are seeking to actively support Ukraine in its fight against the occupiers, comparable in some ways to the anti-Hitler coalition during World War II.
“We realise how important this is, because Ukraine is fighting for the whole world today,” said Glyauk Konjufca, president of the Assembly of the Republic of Kosovo, during Europe Day celebrations in Pristina this week.
The celebration took place at the National Library of Kosovo with the participation of top politicians, diplomats, journalists and public figures.
Participants welcomed the ‘Journalists-in-Residence Kosovo’ programme launched by the government. As part of the initiative, 20 Ukrainian media workers will be able to live in the country for some time and remain professionally engaged. The first of them is me, Liudmyla Makei, and I have been working in Pristina since 17 April.
The winner of the annual European of the Year competition was announced during the reception. This award is given to people whose activities promote European ideas and values. This year’s winner was Fakhrie Hoti from the small village of Krusha in Kosovo. After the Kosovo War, about 300 women were left widows in her village. Fakhrie created and led the production of canned goods, now branded “Krusha Women”. Every day, 50 workers fill nearly 700 bottles of ajvar (a red pepper sauce) and pickles, which are then sold nationwide. The company became a symbol of revival,and Fakhrie's story formed the basis of the film "Happy Woman". The EU Ambassador to Kosovo Tomasz Sunjog congratulated the laureate.
Interestingly Kosovo, like Ukraine, has expressed its commitment to European integration and is awaiting a decision on visa liberalisation and the application for EU membership, but despite the two nation’s proximity to powerful aggressive neighbours, today there is a legal obstacle in bilateral relations. Ukraine still has not recognised the state of Kosovo. With Ukraine aspiring to EU membership it may be time for Kyiv to think about adopting the majority position on Kosovan statehood.
Nearly five million jobs lost in Ukraine
by Geneva Solutions
Around 4.8 million jobs have been lost in Ukraine since the start of the invasion by Russia as the crisis forced thousands of businesses to fold, disrupted the economy and as millions of people fled the country, the Geneva-based International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Wednesday.
Employment losses could increase to seven million if the war continues, according to its findings. However, some 3.4 million jobs could also be recovered rapidly in the event of a ceasefire.
The war could also disrupt the labour markets and increase unemployment in neighbouring countries hosting millions of refugees and also hit countries in central Asia with a high level of migrants workers in Russia, who are at risk of losing their jobs and being forced to return home.
“In many high-income countries, which have recently witnessed signs of a stronger labour market recovery, the fallout from the Ukraine crisis may worsen labour market conditions and reverse some of the gains made,” the ILO said.
Bringing life amid death: Kharkiv doctor delivers babies in wartime
by Oleksandra Ambroz, 12.05.2022
Midwife-gynaecologist Yana Krylenko, who works at the Kharkiv Perinatal Center and has been delivering babies for 32 years. Even war didn’t stop her carrying on with her life-saving work.
Kharkiv is one of the most heavily damaged cities in Ukraine. The second city of 1.5 million is the regional centre for the whole northeast. The border with Russia is just 35 kilometres away. Missiles rained onto the city at 5 am on 24 February, and two days later the first Russian tanks entered eastern Kharkiv. Although they did not stay there long, Kharkiv remains under partial siege, in range of heavy weapons and airstrikes, to this day. Kharkiv’s hospitals have far fewer patients, but also fewer doctors.
“There are very few pregnant women, but they are still there”, Yana tells me. Her voice is calm. “We were somehow preparing for the war, we had a good basement and there was a supply of medicines and equipment. If there is no force majeure, births take place in the delivery room, but immediately after the birth, the mother and child are taken down to the basement.”
In March the hospital came under fire.
“It looked like there was a piece of a rocket, a cluster bomb, or something on the ground. It broke the window of the ultrasound room. Thank God no one was hurt”.
Meanwhile in Russia and the occupied territories of Ukraine….
Police stops ‘funeral for Ukraine’ near Kremlin
An unknown man drove around Tverskaya Street near the Kremlin in Moscow in a car with trailer carrying a coffin wrapped in the Ukrainian flag, the Telegram channel Avtozak Live reported. The car was also decked in a Russian flag and a flag celebrating Victory Day.
The police did not appreciate the “patriot's” action. Traffic police officers stopped the car, the driver was detained and escorted to the police station. The men in uniform removed the Ukrainian flag from the coffin.
Chips from dishwashers found in Russian tanks
Sanctions imposed by the US are forcing Russia to use computer chips from dishwashers and refrigerators in its military equipment, Telegram channel Agency.News reported on 12 May, quoting US Commerce Secretary Gene Raimondo.
“We have reports from Ukrainians of finding Russian military equipment stuffed with semiconductors from dishwashers and refrigerators,” Raimondo told a Senate hearing.
The United States has speculated that Russia is compensating for a shortage of electronic components that are no longer available because of sanctions, commerce department spokeswoman Robin Patterson said.
The US restricted exports of high-tech products to Russia in late February. Since then, technology exports from the US to Russia have fallen by nearly 70 per cent, according to US Department of Commerce data.
Parents of schoolchildren to buy panties for Russian military
A subscriber of the Telegram channel “Horizontal Russia” reported that school No.36 in Belgorod, which is located on the border with Ukraine, will be collecting necessary items for the “protectors” all of next week. The school management sent parents a long list of food, clothes, hygiene products, medicine and more.
Among the unusual items to collect are underpants, black markers and “to keep awake” sunflower seeds. In addition, leadership said the military is in great need of instant noodles, “Rolton.”
In late April, The Insider reported that the Russian military was left in Ukraine without medicines and basic supplies, from bandages to antibiotics. They are being handed over by volunteers through the border region of Belgorod. According to messages in volunteer chat rooms, the Defence Ministry either does not send medications at all, or the number of wounded exceeds all expectations of the agency. Hospitals do not have the necessary equipment for operations.
In addition, according to The Insider, many of the Russians fighting in Ukraine do not have clothes and shoes, as well as radio communication equipment, head flashlights, and even means against ticks, which can lead to dangerous diseases - tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme disease.
Earlier, the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights Lyudmyla Denisova reported that the Russian military in the self-proclaimed LPR and DPR forced university students to donate blood en masse for their wounded comrades-in-arms.
Meduza reports on Russian ‘filtration camps’ for Ukrainians
Nearly 900,000 Ukrainian refugees have entered Russia since the start of the war, the Russian Foreign Ministry has said. Those under Russian shelling are often simply unable to enter Ukrainian-controlled territory. People are taken to Russia via the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic or Crimea and are subjected to a long procedure of so-called filtration, Russian independent media Meduza reported. Ukrainians spend several days in such “filtration camps”, it said. Ukraine accuses the Kremlin of forcibly deporting civilians; Moscow denies these accusations. Meduza spoke to those who have gone through “filtration” and described how the system works.
One of Meduza's interlocutors, Maxim (name changed), said that he had to wait his turn in the “pen” area for nine hours. During the interrogation he was spoken to “only in obscenities” and Maksim's phone was thoroughly checked. Then one of the soldiers said: “Either turn in everyone you have serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine or the territorial defence, or go and fight for ours. People like you are thrown straight to the first line there. You'll be digging trenches there, and then you'll be killed”.
According to Meduza's source close to the DPR authorities (he himself participates in “filtering” and removing Ukrainians), those who have not passed the first “filtering” are detained for more thorough checks – but many “are released quite quickly”. The rest – those who are considered by the DPR to have genuine ties with the AFU – are sent to pre-trial detention centres in the territory of the self-proclaimed republic, he said.
A word from editors
It is 11 May, day 77 of Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine. Active fighting is carrying on in Donetsk and Dnipro. The Odesa region is sustaining more and more airstrikes, which lead to destruction of buildings. The Kharkiv region saw four villages and town liberated over the last 24 hours, according to Ukrainska Pravda.
On 10 May, Ukraine also saw the news of the death of Leonid Kravchuk, who was the first president of independent Ukraine. Journalist Olha Holovina has written a short summary about Kravchuk and his time in the office.
But first, journalist Stanislav Kibalnyk explains how his war-torn hometown Kharkiv may lose its trams due to corruption.
War-torn Kharkiv is losing its trams
by Stanislav Kibalnyk, 11.05.2022
The morning of 4 May did not start with coffee for Kharkiv tram line workers. They were deconstructing the tram line on Vesnina Street, which connects central Kharkiv to Saltivka – the city’s biggest residential neighbourhood.
Kharkiv’s urban community had previously spent more than a year protecting this tram line from a car lane expansion. They, together with experts, appealed to the city council, started discussions within the media – all until it became one of the hot topics for the October 2021 mayoral elections.
The mayor’s office could not find a good counter-argument for the appeals and quietly cancelled the tenders for the construction works.
Others also acted quietly, albeit not with the same intention. When some people left war-torn Kharkiv or diverted their focus elsewhere, these people weren’t even stopped by the life-threatening danger of the regular shelling.
The spokesperson of the city council, Yuriy Sydorenko, explained:
“Kharkiv no longer has trams. The substations that were ensuring the work of the trams have been destroyed. The depot was destroyed. Vesnina Street’s expansion has been long in the planning and was supposed to start in March this year. But the arrival of the dirty Russian soldiers has delayed these plans. The war shouldn’t stop us from improving Kharkiv’s infrastructure. And I know it may sound weird, but it is easiest to do the reconstruction when there’s almost no cars in Kharkiv, with minimum disruption to the lives of the locals who have stayed,” Sydorenko said.
But Kostiantyn Dvornichenko, the instructor of the Trolleybus depot №2, has criticised this decision.
“Why is it that when it became clear that the Saltivka depot was under shelling, the carriages were not transferred to the Zhovtnevyi and Kominternivskyi depots? Why did they have to wait until the Saltivka depot was fully destroyed? And the fact that the trams can no longer exist in Kharkiv is a lie. Ukraine’s European partners have already promised funds to replace everything that was damaged, and that’s not all. We haven’t even officially asked them to help yet. In any case, not everyone will return to Kharkiv after the war, and there will be less car traffic, less than in the pre-war era. So there shouldn’t be problems with traffic on Vesnina Street. There is no reason to destroy the tram line. Especially since they’re deconstructing two lines, not just one, so it’s no longer the case of easing the one-way traffic,” Dvornichenko said.
So, for some people it’s war, for others it’s an opportunity for a continuing corruption. Many had hopes that the war would finally change things on the local government level but the more decisions like this, the fewer people will want to return to their hometown.
‘Life is like Russian roulette in Mariupol’
by Mariana Tsymbalyuk, 11.05.2022
Before 2014, Tetiana Vovk lived in Donetsk. She had to leave the city after the invasion of Russian proxies. Eight years later, she fled the “Russian world” again – this time in Mariupol. There, she lived in a basement for almost a month with her family, which includes an eight-month-old daughter and eight-year-old son.
Russia dropped bombs on their street, tanks were firing near their apartment block, and the occupiers came to their home. Tetiana has explained how her family managed to survive and flee the horrors of Mariupol.
Read the full article here.
Ex-Ukraine President Leonid Kravchuk dies at 89
by Olha Holovina, 11.05.2022
The first president of independent Ukraine, a contentious politician, and a member of the old guard – all these descriptors are often used when talking about Leonid Kravchuk. The 89-year-old Kravchuk passed away on 10 May. His death follows a June 2021 heart operation and a period of rehabilitation in Germany.
The incumbent president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, referred to Kravchuk as a “historic figure.”
“[Kravchuk] was a person who could find wise words and deliver them to every Ukrainian. Leonid Makarovych knew the price of freedom. And, from the bottom of his heart, he wanted Ukraine to be at peace. I’m sure we will achieve that. We will achieve our victory and peace,” Zelenskyy noted.
Some people say that Kravchuk put a lot of effort into the dissolution of the Soviet Union and that he didn’t hold on to his power after losing the 1994 presidential election to Leonid Kuchma. Others accuse Kravchuk of not having enough political foresight. After all, he was the one to give up Ukraine’s nuclear weapons and sign the Budapest Memorandum. Today, Ukraine is suffering because of its weaker position.
History will show which stance will prove to be correct but it was under Kravchuk that Ukraine deviated from Moscow. When the Ukrainian parliament voted for independence on 24 August 1991, Kravchuk served as the speaker of the parliament. Three months later, the vast majority of Ukrainians solidified the desire for independence in a referendum. Kravchuk was chosen as the first president of independent Ukraine. A week later, he signed an agreement with Russia and Belarus that signified the end of the Soviet Union.
He was born in 1934 in today’s west of Ukraine (Poland at the time). He built his career in the Communist Party and managed to rise in his position in the last few years of the Soviet Union when he headed the ideology department and became a member of the Ukrainian Communist Party Bureau.
In July 2020, Zelenskyy appointed Kravchuk to be the head of the Ukrainian delegation in the Trilateral Contact Group (which was formed to facilitate a diplomatic resolution to the war in the Donbas region).
Meanwhile, in Russian news…
Mariupol occupying authorities are offering jobs to clean up dead bodies
The occupation authorities of Mariupol are offering its residents jobs to clean up rubble and the bodies of their dead compatriots. The pay for this will be "from 10 to 32 thousand rubles (€135 to €435),” Telegram channel New Mariupol, which is allegedly pro-DPR (the Donetsk People's Republic under Russian control), said.
The reports are confirmed by Twitter users who have published the leaflets that have allegedly been distributed around Mariupol.
Trust in the media: Russians reconsider their channels
Trust in television channels in Russia decreased between March and April while people choosing social networks and alternative media platforms like Telegram as their most reliable source of information has grown, according to new findings published by international advertising GroupM.
Less than a quarter (23 per cent) of respondents interviewed on 27 April named television as the source of media they trusted the most compared with a 33 per cent on 17 March, the study, cited by the Russian daily business newspaper Kommersant, showed.
More than 1.7 thousand respondents aged 18 to 60 in Russian cities with a population of more than 100 thousand people took part in the survey. Trust in television declined more among Russians living in small cities, dropping by 34 per cent to 24 per cent.
At the same time, respondents' trust in social networks, blogs, and Telegram channels increased: the share of those who prefer this source of information increased from 19 per cent to 23 per cent.
Anti-war stickers plastered on police car
Activists discreetly put anti-war stickers on a police car and the policeman himself, according to the Russian Feminist Anti-War Resistance. The sticker reads: “Putin desecrated 9 May”.
A word from editors
On 10 May, day 76 of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russia was shelling and bombing the Azovstal steel plant, according to Svyatoslav Palamar of Azov regiment. He told Ukrainska Pravda news site that as a result of the assault, many people sustained severe injuries.
Ukraine also hosted the foreign ministers of Germany and the Netherlands. They visited some seriously war-torn areas like Bucha and Irpin.
Meanwhile, in Russia, police forces detained a hundred anti-war protesters during Victory Day.
Russian security forces detained at least 125 people on Victory Day
On 9 May, activists joined the “Immortal Regiment” marches holding anti-war signs. According to the newspaper The youth democracy Movement Vesna, such signs could be seen in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Chelyabinsk, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, Ufa, Kazan, Ruzaevka, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk and other cities.
According to the Russian non-governmental human rights media project OVD-info, Russian security forces detained at least 125 of these protesters for carrying anti-war symbols and conducting other actions to protest against the invasion of Ukraine.
In the city of Korolev, near Moscow, Ekaterina Voronina was detained by the police for carrying a poster with a picture of her relative and the inscription “He did not want this to repeat”. She was released later on the same day.
In Moscow, Artem Potapov was detained for giving candies to people who opposed the war in Pushkin Square. According to OVD-info, Yegor Shatov, a SOTA journalist who was interviewing him, was detained at the same time.
In St Petersburg, municipal deputy Sergei Samusev was detained for participating in the "Immortal Regiment" with a portrait of Boris Romanchenko, who survived imprisonment in concentration camps and was killed during the shelling of Kharkiv in March 2022.
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Russian Smart TVs hacked with anti-war message
On the night and morning of 9 May, Russian owners of Smart TVs were confronted with an anti-war inscription in the descriptions of TV channels and programmes. Journalist Kseniya Sobchak drew attention to this.
“You have the blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of their murdered children on your hands. TV and authorities lie. No to the war,” reads the message, which appears on various TV channels. The message was seen by users of MTS TV, NTV-Plus, Rostelecom, as well as owners of Winx media players. According to one version, the built-in player of Smart TVs was hacked.
Network users also noticed that a similar inscription appeared in the programme descriptions of Yandex.Teleprogramme. At the time of publication, the inscription was no longer available on the service's website.
Anti-war protesters sent to a psychiatric hospital
Last week we talked about a protester who staged an anti-war performance outside the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. While the police did not detain the activist immediately - she was grabbed a day later, on 6 May, outside her home and sent forcibly to a psychiatric hospital, according to the Russian anti-corruption project Scanner.
A lawyer was not allowed to see her and was asked to make an appointment on the usual visiting days. The diagnosis was not disclosed.
It is not the first time that an anti-war protester has been sent to a psychiatric hospital by the authorities. In March, a woman was forcibly sent to a psychiatric hospital after dancing and singing Ukrainian folks' songs in Kaliningrad.
A word from editors
It’s is 9 May, day 75 of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and Victory Day for some. Celebrated in Russia, in Ukraine it remains a day of memory and loss. In today’s coverage, journalist, writer and historian Serhii Kariuk reflects on how the appalling human cost of WWII, a quarter of Ukraine’s population, is felt in every Ukrainian village.
We also have an account of life in Russia-occupied Kherson and the delicate work of deminers getting rid of unexploded ammunition and mines left behind by Russian troops.
In Russian news, we get reports of Victory Day celebrations in Ukraine’s occupied territories and an artist twisting a Russian slogan to protest against the war.
Russia uses Victory Day to recruit new soldiers
A mobile citizens' recruitment station in the Russian city of Ufa, 1,350 km east of Moscow, has been working on the festive square since morning. Its organisers said that contract servicemen would be sent “not only to Ukraine but also there”. Two residents signed up to serve.
Two recruitment points were set up in the city of Tomsk, with huge queues lining up. A similar point was also set up in the northern city of Arkhangelsk, along with a shooting range where participants could win mugs with “Russian Army” and “Contract Service” inscriptions.
Now back to our Ukraine correspondents…
‘Who suffers more?’ is a recurrent historic question for Ukrainians, but our Lviv correspondent Daria Koshel says understanding will be needed to heal emerging rifts between those who braved Russian bombardments, and those who decided to escape. Koshel has recently become aware of people around her not feeling understood. That’s because everyone experiences war differently, not because some are right and others are wrong, she writes in this opinion piece.
We don’t all experience war the same
by Daria Koshel, 09.05.2022
“You don't understand what happened,” says a Bucha resident who had not left his heavily-bombarded town during the war.
Kyivans who remained in the capital just as confidently say “you do not understand”.
At the same time, their neighbours left for western Ukraine in the last days of February, escaping the terror.
Few seem ready to understand those who spent the first two months of the war in Poland, Germany or the Czech Republic.
Nobody is wrong, they all just have radically different experiences of the war. It doesn't mean that someone did better or worse, it just means that this experience is absolutely incomparable.
Social psychologist Oleh Pokalchuk wrote in his article:
“There will be a very clear division between ‘your’ people, and others. You will see yours at a glance, you will not even need to talk. It's a bit like Dante's Circles of Hell, everyone will be in their own circle.”
You can understand another person's hell only by visiting it. I’ve experienced it myself: some of my colleagues have moved to Warsaw, but we are working together on some media projects in Lviv. Sometimes it is very difficult for me to accept that here, we’re doing these projects to the sound of air raids, while they’re working from safety over there. I, on the other hand, do not understand the longing for their home that they keep mentioning.
“Come back! What's the problem?” we say. “The Russians have already left Kyiv, now there is only a missile threat…” We in Ukraine, unfortunately, are already accustomed. But they are not.
All these lines of distinction between us are like scars, and they will only run deeper. Even now, I often see how those who went abroad from regions that were “too safe”, or left “too early”, or at all, “taking someone else's place”, are belittled. One of my friends on Facebook complained that she and her young son were regularly criticised for travelling to Vienna from quiet Chernivtsi, especially when people from Mariupol or destroyed areas in the Kharkiv region are now hearing there’s simply “not enough space in Europe”.
The mayor of Dnipro city, Boris Filatov, made harsh comments about the people who had fled his city for western Ukraine. “If you have arrived, do not wear flashy tracksuits and do not occupy all the places in cafes with your laptops,” he said.
No mayor in Ukraine has the right to tell people what to wear or where to sit. At the heart of this is a dangerous tendency to compare one's pain and grief with the pain and grief of others.
Our anger, which we express in this way, is completely natural and healthy. As psychotherapist Oksana Efremova writes, the most important thing is to remember who the enemy and aggressor is, towards whom our healthy reaction of anger should be directed. The enemy is not the people who are suffering from war just as we are.
Demining Russia’s Easter ‘eggs’
By Svitlana Vovk, 09.05.2022
Last week, a demining team of Ukraine’s national guard worked on explosives left behind by the Russian occupiers in the Mykolaiv region, namely 120mm artillery shells and 120mm mortar ammunition, said the chief of the engineering service of the 3039th National Guard, identified as call sign “Navigator”.
“After our artillery destroyed the occupiers' KAMAZ, transporting artillery shells and mortar bombs, many explosive devices remained. The task of the demining team is to destroy these munitions with controlled detonation. Five demining personnel were involved in the disposal of explosive devices,” said Navigator.
The Mykolaiv Guardsmen are on duty every day to defend and protect the city, as well as the borders and boundaries of the region, said another officer from unit 3039, call sign “Screen”.
“We not only protect public order and defend the city and state facilities located in our city and region, but also our sapper specialists are involved in demining the most dangerous areas of our city,” said Screen.
Sapper units get alerts that have been vetted by the state emergency services. In the city of Mykolaiv and the surrounding area, both under daily attack, a lot of what could be described as deadly “eggs” from the Russian Federation have been left behind. Sapper units call on all citizens to be careful and not to pick up unknown objects, as it could cost you your life.
Meanwhile in Russia…
Zinc is ours!
Graffiti depicting coffins appeared in the Russian city of Volgograd on 9 May. The inscription over the coffins reads “Zinc is ours!” – a reference to the 2014 Russian patriotic slogan “Crimea is ours!”, which emerged in the context of the socio-political discussion around the annexation of Crimea by Russia. The photo was posted by Philippenzo, the author of the graffiti, on his Instagram account.
“I don't see any chance of remaining in the field of normality and adequacy by celebrating the so-called Victory Day today, May 9, 2022, at a time when my homeland has turned from a victorious country into an aggressor country,” the artist wrote.
“However, I feel the need to speak out in an artistic way. It is obvious that Russia will not gain any victory in this totally senseless and inglorious war, while its main ‘achievements’ will be indelible shame, isolation, debts, poverty, and tens of thousands of ruined and mutilated lives, souls and bodies. Bodies that the Motherland does not even acknowledge and takes home with great reluctance.”
Russian plans to turn occupied and defeated Mariupol into a ‘resort town’
The authorities of the self-proclaimed Donetsk people's republic (DPR) are planning to turn Mariupol into a resort city, Telegram channel Bloody baroness reported, citing DPR head Denys Pushylin.
“The ecology of the city itself and the coastal waters has been negatively affected by the operation of the Azovstal plant. We will listen to the residents and do something different here. This will make it possible, if Azovstal is not restored, then to make a resort town,” said Pushylin.
Kherson: one week of full isolation
By Daria Kotielnikova, 04.05.2022
The Russian military took out Kherson region’s internet and mobile connection on 30 April, completely isolating its inhabitants. Mobile service providers assured that the signal issues were not a result of an accident. Soldiers reportedly targeted the required power infrastructure. Relatives and friends struggle to get through to the residents, but some manage to send short messages.
I, personally, still can’t reach my family, who is in Kherson. My acquaintances whom I managed to contact say that the city is quiet.
The image above shows people flocking to the areas with good signal. These places become known through “word of mouth”. People share with others where they managed to find good service for a call or even a message on social media.
The only working mobile service provider in the city goes through Russia’s Rostelecom, so residents are careful when using it. But even with that, there is a two-week wait for those who want to sign up.
Russian propaganda outlets are spreading a fake story about Ukraine forgetting its Kherson region and switching the signal off in the area. There is no evidence to support that.
Available TV channels are Russian too. One of the local TV channels began collaborating with Russia and is now accused of state treason by the Ukrainian government.
The Russians are trying to implement rubles in some of the villages. Oleh Baturin, a local in the area, wrote that one shop has stated to him that it will only be accepting rubles soon.
Ukrainian mobile service providers are now resuming their work slowly. But it is an arduous and time consuming process.
Until then, Suvorova Street in the city centre is a “connectivity hub” of a kind. People go there to meet with others and share information – like it was done in the pre-mobile-phone times.
Victory Day celebrations in Ukraine's occupied territories
Russia celebrated the Soviet Union's World War II victory over Nazi Germany in Ukraine's occupied cities.
In Mariupol, a 300-metre-long St George's Ribbon was unfurled and carried through the streets of the city. The publication Moscow Talks said that it was the largest St. George's ribbon in the world. An eternal flame was also lit in the city. Petro Andryushchenko, adviser to Mariupol mayor, said that residents of Novoazovsk and Donetsk, predominantly Russians, took part in the procession in the devastated city.
Occupied Kherson region also held celebrations. An “Immortal Regiment” action was held in Kherson, while in Novaya Kakhovka, people with the “banner of Victory” (a red flag with a sickle and hammer on it) and Russian flags went to a rally, RIA Novosti reported. The servicemen also opened a field kitchen in central Kherson.
Rosgvardiya told TASS that in Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions “song and dance ensembles of the National Guard troops performed military songs in Kherson, Skadovsk, Genichesk, Novaya Kakhovka, Melitopol and Berdyansk”.
URA.RU published a video from Energodar. There, the city's central square was broadcasting the Red Square parade.
No mass mobilisation announced at victory parade
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech on Red Square on Monday to commemorate the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazis in WWII. Addressing the military parade, Putin linked the events of 1941-1945 to what is happening now in Ukraine. He reiterated that NATO countries did not want to hear Russia’s warning last December and forced it to launch a “special operation” in Ukraine. A mass mobilisation, as many feared following media reports, was not announced by the Russian leader.
“Everyone was saying that a clash with the Nazis, the Banderites, was inevitable. Russia gave a preemptive response to the aggression, it was a forced, timely and the only right decision,” Putin said.
“The West is now praising the traitors, crossing out the courage of those who suffered the victory. Today, the Donbas militias are fighting on their land together with the Russian army. Servicemen from Donbas are taking part in the parade.”
Soldiers of the Russian airborne tula division, who took part in the invasion of Ukraine, marched on Red Square. A total of 11,000 servicemen took part in the victory parade.
The air part of the parade was cancelled, citing bad weather. Initially there were plans to have an aerial formation of the letter Z.
Victory Day: mourning the dead turned into a spectacle
by Serhii Kariuk, 09.05.2022
Word has it that this year's Victory Day over Nazism on 9 May will be celebrated more modestly than usual in Moscow. The parade will not be so crowded, there will be no distinguished guests on Red Square, just as there will be no splendour or pomp. Others predict otherwise, believing that Russian President Vladimir Putin may announce a general mobilisation in Russia and stop hiding behind the phrase “special operation in Ukraine”. Dictators have always loved symbolism, and given little thought to human lives.
On 9 May 1945, my grandfather, also Serhii Kariuk, found himself near the Czech capital of Prague. That night, the 20-year-old sergeant was woken by the sound of heavy fighting. Grabbing his weapon, he jumped out of his tent and met dozens of soldiers shouting “Victory!” and firing into the night air. Many cried with happiness. My grandfather relived that night over and over again and every time he told us the story he wiped tears from his eyes with his fist.
The list of the dead on our village’s war memorial, right in the centre, is a stark reminder of the war there. My grandfather's village was hidden in the middle of the ravines of the Ukrainian steppe, flat fields in the central Cherkasy region. The memorial shows that 491 locals went to the front; 231 did not return.
The death toll and the remains of trenches around the village were not forgotten, just as the metal ribs of tanks sunk in ponds and fragments of artillery shells densely scattered on my grandfather's land. World War II’s juggernaut ploughed through here twice – in 1941, during the German offensive, and again in 1944, during the Soviet offensive. The shelling, bombing, famine, mass deaths and fear are etched in the memory of the locals forever. For as long as I can remember, my grandmother's favourite saying was “we will survive everything so that there is no war.”
Read the full article here.
Back in Ukraine, the country is saying goodbye to its Soviet past…
Kropyvnytskyi says goodbye to Soviet symbols
by Liudmyla Makei, 09.05.2022
Despite several years of implemented decommunisation, Ukraine is still in the process of removing Soviet symbols from its streets. For example, Kropyvnytskyi – a town in central Ukraine with a decommunised name (Kirovohrad formerly) – bears a monument to Soviet law enforcement officers today, more than two months into the all-out war.
The idea of taking the statue down is being actively discussed in private conversations and on social media.
The square where it is located was built in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Soviet police. It was recently renamed to mark Anatoliy Buzulyak, a soldier who lost his life defending the Donbas from Russia-led separatists.
The monument in Kropyvnytskyi is a copy of the already demolished monument in Kyiv, on the Lybidska Square. They were created by sculptor Vasyl Borodai and architect Anatoliy Ihnashchenko.
Journalist and historian Yuriy Lisnychenko says that the Kropyvnytskyi monument was erected in front of a police station in the late 1970s. The area became home to Police Day celebrations.
Taking down the monument is an unpopular idea among today’s law enforcement officers, says Head of Media Relations at Kropyvnytskyi City Council, Serhiy Yakunin.
“They view it as a monument to their colleagues killed by criminals. For the toponymic committee to consider [removing it], someone needs to send a request. That’s if we want to do things legally. Or we can go the ‘unstoppable public whim’ route like it was done before,” said Yakunin.
Public initiative is what led to the legal demolition of a monument dedicated to young communists in Kropyvnytskyi in April 2022. But it took seven years and a lot of going back and forth.
Russian military strikes Kirovohrad region again
Two injured people and a damaged power substation – these are the consequences of the 3 May airstrike on the Kirovohrad region. Overnight, three missiles were launched from the area near the Caspian Sea. Two of them hit the substation at the railway station near the Bohdanivka village of the Dolynska district. The third one was intercepted by Ukraine’s anti-aircraft equipment. The Head of the Regional Military Administration, Andriy Raikovych, said that no deaths were reported. Journalists were not permitted to enter the territory of the railway station. According to the deputy director of the station, Denys Tykhonchuk, this is because the station is deemed to be a strategic object. Journalist Anna Dnistrovska has managed to speak with three Bohdanivka residents who say that they saw and heard the airstrikes.
by Anna Dnistrovska, 06.05.2022
Tetiana Maliuha is a 60-year-old resident of Bohdanivka. She says she was milking a cow when she heard the sound of an approaching rocket. She thought it was an airplane but her husband Bohdan said he saw the two missiles.
“The missiles could be seen where those lamp posts are. One of them exploded first … I was milking a cow and left the barn with a bucket. I thought it was a plane so I hid straightaway. Then an explosion occurred, and another one five minutes later. We only had debris hitting our roof. I told my husband: ‘Hide, God forbid it hits us’ and dived into the barn. He joined me. The dog and the cow were terrified,” Tetiana said.
They say that they’re not afraid of another airstrike. Their neighbour Tetiana Tantsura works as a shopkeeper near the train station where the missile struck. She heard the first explosion at 8 p.m. The sound wave broke her window. Another window was shattered in the annex.
“The first window was broken straightway, the door opened, I ran outside. Everything was engulfed in flames and smoke. People started coming outside. Another missile hit but I didn’t see it. It was so loud that I had to hide in the house. Of course, I was scared. Who wouldn’t be? There were many kids in the streets, so I was scared for them,” said Tetiana.
The Head of the Regional Military Administration, Andriy Raikovych, said that as a result of the airstrike, around 27 tons of transformer oil were on fire. The firefighters managed to put out the fire by the morning of 4 May. Two departmental security fighters suffered light injuries. The head of the emergency medical centre, Oleksandr Yaroshenko, said that the injuries were treated, and hospitalisation was not needed.
The Hurivka village council could not confirm or deny the information about the intercepted missile. The council’s secretary Iryna Ruda said that she doesn’t have access to the information about Ukraine’s anti-aircraft defence.
On 4 May, another Russian missile struck the Kirovohrad region. It hit an infrastructure object near Kropyvnytskyi. No injuries or deaths were reported, Raikovych said. Thirteen Ukrainian soldiers were killed as a result of airstrikes in the Kirovohrad region since 24 February.