Fr, 2.12.2022

Fake referendums would not stop the Ukrainian forces

Fake referendums would not stop the Ukrainian forces
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Ukrainian soldiers took the fallen comrade Vladimir Linsky from his home on Saturday on his last journey. On the passenger car standing in front of the house is a letter that sends the Russian warship to a place known to everyone.
Ukrainian soldiers took the fallen comrade Vladimir Linsky from his home on Saturday on his last journey. On the passenger car standing in front of the house is a letter that sends the Russian warship to a place known to everyone. Photo: Dmitri Kotjuh
  • The outcome of Russian-organized fake referendums is known in advance.
  • Fighting continues in all four regions where the referendums are held.
  • The pro-Russian fake referendums will not change the plans of the Ukrainians.

Slovyansk already experienced a referendum back in 2014, and then we liberated the city, said Vadim Lyakh, the mayor of Slovyansk, one of the largest cities in the Donetsk region still under Ukrainian control, and added: “Let them hold their “referendum”, the result will be the same – we shall liberate our territories.”

In the Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia, including the Donetsk region, the event described in Russia as a referendum over joining Russia, is going on for the fourth day already. Apart from Russia, almost no one in the world recognizes this “referendum”. The result of this is known in advance, which means that Russia will soon declare four Ukrainian regions – Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – to be part of Russia. Fierce battles between Ukrainian and Russian forces are taking place in all regions.

The fake referendum will not change anything

Over the weekend, Postimees learned in the Ukrainian-controlled Donbass that the pro-Russian referendum will in no way change Ukraine's plans to recover these areas. None of the Ukrainians we talked to about life there brought up the “referendum”. For them it is no issue at all.

“Ah, God be with them. Let them do it,” said shopkeeper Lyudmila (59) in Bakhmut, a town located only six kilometers from the front line and bombed by the Russian forces, so that the locals only move through the streets by running. “What makes us worry is the mobilization. Of course, we are afraid that it will make our life even worse.”

Ljudmila, a shop assistant in Bahmut, which is under bombardment, shows a loaf of bread that costs 70 cents in our money, which is mainly bought by the locals.
Ljudmila, a shop assistant in Bahmut, which is under bombardment, shows a loaf of bread that costs 70 cents in our money, which is mainly bought by the locals. Photo: Dmitri Kotjuh

Lyudmila was referring to the partial mobilization announced last week by Russian President Vladimir Putin for fighting in Ukraine, which Russia invaded seven months ago. According to different sources, the Russian army plans to mobilize 300,000 – 1.2 million, to continue the war.

“This [“referendum”] in no way prevents our soldiers from liberating new towns and settlements. This will not stop the Ukrainian army,” assured Lyakh, the mayor of Slovyansk.

Olexandr Marchenko, deputy mayor of the city of Bakhmut (Donetsk region), which exists under incessant bombardment of the Russian army, commented about the “referendum” and Russia's mobilization that if everything is going so well in Russia in the war against Ukraine, why is it all needed.

“If there are only 6,000 dead (Russian soldiers, as Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu claimed), then why is it necessary to mobilize 300,000 men?” Marchenko wondered. “Let them take the [body] bags along when they come, because unfortunately we do not have enough. And, of course, let them put the seeds in their pockets.” These words referred to the popular slogan at the beginning of the war according to which the Russian soldiers who came to fight in Ukraine should put seeds in their pockets, so that growing trees would later show where they were buried.

A dog in a car where the remains of people who died in the liberated areas of Ukraine are collected. At the same time, the car crew collects what is left of the Russian tank crew that was hit.
A dog in a car where the remains of people who died in the liberated areas of Ukraine are collected. At the same time, the car crew collects what is left of the Russian tank crew that was hit. Photo: Dmitri Kotjuh

Life is very cruel in Bakhmut, where more than 20,000 people have still remained, together with the residents of the surrounding areas. On the average, three or four peaceful residents are killed by artillery fire, rockets and air attacks every day. The infrequent inhabitants, who get out, run in the streets, so as not to fall victim to the shrapnel of the bombs constantly falling on the city.

“Very few people come to the store,” said Lyudmila, who works in one of the few stores open in Bakhmut. “There are explosions all the time, but people need bread, that's why we are open.” In a town of 60,000 people before the war, this downtown shop has 80 to 100 buyers on a good day.

Getting used to constant bombing

Air strikes at Bakhmut are heavy. Three days ago, Russian pilots dropped two bombs on a five-story apartment building, completely collapsing two sections. Fortunately, most of the residents of the house had already fled the city; two people were killed.

A residential building in Bahmut, where two people died due to bombs dropped from Russian planes.
A residential building in Bahmut, where two people died due to bombs dropped from Russian planes. Photo: Dmitri Kotjuh

“On that day, we had electricity for the first time over two weeks. People were very happy about it,” said Valery (55), who lives in the neighboring house. They did not have time to rejoice for long. At midnight, the first bomb exploded 50 meters away from Valery's apartment.

“I have already become experienced; we have explosions here all the time, I jumped out of bed – I always sleep with clothes on – and ran into the stairwell corridor. It is a bit safer there,” Valery said. “After 15-30 seconds, there was the second crash. Now I am constantly afraid that this whole house will collapse.”

Residents of the frontline city fear for their lives

An outdoor oven built in the yard of Bahmut Church during the war to cook food for the people around.
An outdoor oven built in the yard of Bahmut Church during the war to cook food for the people around. Photo: Dmitri Kotjuh

Father Alexey (39), the priest of the Bakhmut church closest to the front line - some three kilometers away – said that ten people from the surrounding streets have already taken shelter in the basement of his church. Among them there are those whose houses have been destroyed and who have no place to go, but according to Father Alexey, others are afraid to live alone at home when they are constantly bombed. These are mainly older people. “It is especially scary to be home alone at night,” Father Alexey said. He expects many more people so seek for shelter in the winter.

Ukrainian units are gradually advancing in Donetsk and the neighboring Luhansk region, although they are suffering heavy losses every day. At the weekend, another fallen hero was buried in Kramatorsk. 57-year-old Vladimir Linsky was killed during the Ukrainian offensive on the city of Lyman, which is currently besieged by the Ukrainians. Hundreds of fellow townspeople came to see him off, kneeling as is customary in Ukraine.

In the villages liberated during the offensive which started in the Kharkiv region in mid-September, a heart-wrenching sight unfolds. On Saturday, Postimees visited the settlement of Dolyna on the border of Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, for which the Ukrainian and Russian forces fought hard for three months. Among other things, the Russian troops bombed to the ground the beautiful St. George's hermitage, which had been operating there for 160 years, together with the Orthodox church, which before the war was subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate. None of the approximately 50 houses in Dolyna village had survived the war. The once very beautiful village has been uninhabited for a long time.

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