Southeast Ukraine is a war zone, in all but name

Tanya Lokshina writes: Last week, not far from Donetsk in southeastern Ukraine, a man wearing only camouflage underpants, with a stained sleeveless shirt, and brandishing a Kalashnikov assault rifle, demanded to see my passport. Over the past decade, lots of men with all sorts of weapons have asked me for my ID – some of them were far from pleasant, but at least they were all decently wearing trousers. My first impulse was to suggest that he get dressed before asking other people for identification documents. But his Kalashnikov made me reconsider, and I handed over the passport with a bright smile.

Southeast Ukraine, in the days before the May 25 presidential election made one think of those unforgettable documentaries from Darfur or Somali: people dressed in fatigues and swinging their guns out of car windows. In fact, my colleague and I saw one truly impressive vehicle in Slovyansk, the insurgent stronghold in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

The car, a local resident told us, had been ‘confiscated’ from a man who had dared break the curfew, and drive around at night. Anti-Kyiv insurgents spray-painted it in camouflage colours, smashed the windows, cut out a ‘skylight’ in the roof, and drove around at top speed, with their Kalashnikovs sticking out. It would have been funny if the place weren’t increasingly becoming more like a war zone, mortar strikes included. [Continue reading…]

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