Crisis in Ukraine: Where are they now?
Almost one year after the Ukrainian revolution, which took place in February and the ongoing waive of demonstrations across the post-Soviet country, civilians are being killed, according a United Nations report.
Innocent people are being reportedly abused through torture, summery executions, forced labour and sexual violence in Eastern Ukraine. According to the latest statistics released by the UN Human Rights Office, from April 2014 to November 2014 at least 4317 people have been killed and nearly 10,000 wounded in Eastern Europe in the war between Ukrainian government and, backed by Russia, separatists.
UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has also announced common use of secret and illegal places where civilians are being detained and allegedly tortured.
The ceasefire, which continues to be ignored, began on September 6th and since then until November 18th nearly 1000 people were killed. Between September 18th and November 19th the number of ‘internally displaced people’ (IDPs) has increased from 275,489 to 466,829, according to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.
Recently three Ukrainian soldiers have been killed when Ukraine and Russia were celebrating Orthodox Christmas in early January. This report is another example of separatists’ violation of the ceasefire. Three men were also killed at the Donetsk International Airport, according to Reuters, where fights between the separatists and Ukrainian government are regular.
Unemployment remains an issue all over Ukraine and keeps growing, latest figures show that over 1.7 million people are currently unemployed and 58 per cent of registered people are women. The highest number of registered people is in the Donetsk region, over 87,000, where the war is taking place.
Issues the administration is facing, in relation to education, affects children, for example 8,000 children ‘were left without a place in kindergarten’ according to Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Social benefits also remain limited, caused by the ‘breakdown of banking systems in the areas controlled by armed groups’ said OHCHR. 36 settlements in Donetsk and the surrounding areas continue to have issues with access to electricity, caused by the ongoing fights.
Access to healthcare in Donetsk regions, where armed groups control the areas, also remain limited. Out of 601 hospitals in the regions at least 45 have been damaged, and as a result are either partially operational or unable to be used. Hospitals are also facing problems with ‘non-completed tenders’ of specific medication, including treatments for HIV-positive patients.
Prices throughout Ukraine have increased by 16.2 per cent and utility rates by 24.3 per cent, according to the data of the State Statistics service.
Although no longer a part of Russia, after joining Vladimir Putin in early 2014, Crimea also faces issues since Ukraine took a step back and the West introduced sanctions on Russia. Crimean people have been experiencing regular power blackouts and empty shelves in shops. Bus and rail links between Ukraine and Crimea were cancelled in December.
The Ukrainian civilians have been experiencing issues caused by the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Julia Lugovska is a freelance journalist from Kyiv with a PhD in post-Soviet and has shared her opinions and views about the current situation in Ukraine and the issues they are facing.
What is the current situation in Ukraine?
Julia Lugovska: “The current situation here in Ukraine, I would say that everything looks really complicated and controversial from within the country. The war is far, it’s hundreds kilometres away from my city, Kyiv, but we also feel it here. I could tell you that generally life is going normally here, people go to work, they make plans, they go out.”
“We have many volunteers helping our soldiers. People help with money, with any necessary goods, with medicine, with clothes, with anything people need. Our soldiers do not receive appropriate supplies, uniforms and weapons from our government, despite the fact that there are huge amounts of money in the bank accounts of Ukrainian Ministry of Defence and the Ukrainian Armed Forces. It is really very sad.”
“Government declares that soldiers have all the supplies, but it is simply not true, many volunteers supply soldiers with everything they can, and they can also see the real state of affairs there, in the war zone.”
“Many people of old regime are still in power, old schemes are still working, and people don’t see changes. It is really sad and pessimistic. Some friends of mine and I start to think more about immigration, as there are no changes here at the moment. But of course there is still hope that things will start to change. The fact that there are some foreigners in our new government makes me personally hope for the possibility of some good and beneficial changes.”
“There is a war in our country, we cannot make any reforms, the situation is hard cause of war. But at the same time we don’t have an officially declared war. Officially what’s been happening for more than 6 months in Eastern Ukraine is a dubbed anti-terrorist operation, not a war. They refuse to declare it a war and to give military the power and authority to act more freely under these circumstances. This situation also makes lives of the soldiers harder, as they are not recognised as soldiers of war. The worst thing is that from on one hand they don’t declare war and continue economical cooperation with Russian, and from on the other hand they don’t make any reforms and positive changes and they don’t try to save our economy, saying that we are at war.”
And what are the most crucial issues you are facing? Examples of how your live has changed since before the Revolution and Euromaidan.
JL: “As for the current issues, I would say that many people are of course disappointed and frustrated because of the prices and decreasing incomes. If the current government, unfortunately, is not resolving the devaluation of our currency and other problems then how are we supposed to function? People are waiting for the reforms, demanded by the Euromaidan Revolution, people demand justice and building of a new state, destroying the old corrupt schemes. But nothing has changed at the moment.”
“Our economy is horrible. The government uses the war to justify everything, to justify our terrible economic situation. All prices have increased. As our economy is strongly connected to dollar, the currency course changes a lot. Dollar became almost two times more expensive than it was, so the prices hiked as well, while the salaries remained on the previous levels. In practice people started to earn two times less than it was before. As for the prices, that’s all the prices: housing costs, gas, food, anything.
What changes have you noticed in ordinary people and their actions?
JL: “I can tell you for sure that the level of responsibility of the ordinary people increased, people really love their country and they really want to change it. The only thing and the most important thing is that the current government and our authorities understand these changes and reforms are inevitable, that the whole governing system of the state should be totally changed. I would say that people are extremely disappointed here, especially young people, but there is also hope that things will change.
“People try to take more attempts to control and influence the decision-making. As for volunteering, I could say the same: people help each other more, people try to support each other more, people help our soldiers, people help refugees from the occupied territories. In addition to that, the level of national consciousness also increased. For example, there are people are proud of being Ukrainian, they started to learn more about their history and culture, Ukrainians are trying to find their place in the European culture and world. There are also many different organisations created recently, which help soldiers, refugees, just homeless people or children in the orphan houses. There are also some groups and committees with civil activists and journalists, who are trying to control the work of the new government and to fight corruption.”
What immediate changes would you like to see first?
JL: “So, there is a long way of reforming our country, I suppose. We need to change the whole system. But the first necessary reforms would be changing the real lustration law. Then economic reforms, and then all other reforms, such as health care reform, education etc.
“We would like to see more support, the real support from the Western countries, especially Europe. Of course, we all understand that each country has its own interests and these interests will be always their priority, but we would like to see more support now. Europeans need to understand that this is not just Russian-Ukrainian war. We fight not only for our country now; we fight for Europe and European values as well. And that would be great if more and more people in Europe understand about the issues in Ukraine and other post-Soviet countries.”
CC-BY-SA 3.0 Mstyslav Chernov/Unframe (photo)