Lily Hyde reports: Harassed Dmitry Chas doesn’t know what day it is, or exactly how long he’s been in round-the-clock charge of the Dynamo roadblock outside Horlivka, a city of 250,000 people north of Donetsk.
But one thing he is sure of: he’s not a terrorist.
“We’re so fed up with what’s being said about us: that we’re wild; that we’re armed,” he said, hurrying to pull on a balaclava to hide his face. “To occupy a building can seem like the work of terrorists, but this road block protecting the town shows that the town supports this goal; that it isn’t terrorism, it’s from the people.”
The armed takeover of state buildings and one whole city in regions of eastern Ukraine has been blamed by the Ukrainian government and media on Russian agents and paramilitary groups from both sides of the border.
But many small-town locals like Chas seem to be closing their eyes to the ominous proliferation of weapons on their streets, or a possible wider geopolitical agenda. They have joined the movement calling for greater independence from Kyiv out of a simple sense of grievance, disillusionment and despair.
“I’m not a politician, I just want my town to be peaceful and to know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” said Chas. “After those revolutions in 2004 and 2014, there’s no faith in tomorrow. I want to be confident that my kids will finish school and institute and get a job; not like now, when you work and work and then there’s a revolution and you lose your job and have nothing to feed your children. We’re just sick of it.”
Chas, a father of three, lost his job as a grocer after the 2004 Orange Revolution. Most people in Horlivka have forgotten what it’s like to have job security, or hot water or money to spare. A people who largely define themselves proudly as workers, without employment many Donbas residents feel lost and abandoned by the rest of the country. [Continue reading…]