. Interview with a doctor from Donetsk | London Progressive Journal
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Interview with a doctor from Donetsk

Thu 9th Oct 2014

Tomasz Pierscionek:
Can you tell us a little about yourself?

EB:
I was born in Donetsk and studied at the medical school there. I have family living in that city though for the past several months I have been living and working in Prague.

TP:
In recent months there has been a conflict in the eastern part of Ukraine. There have been news reports of people in that region coming under attack from forces loyal to the current regime in Kiev. Can you tell us about the actions of the forces dispatched to Eastern Ukraine by President Petro Poroshenko?

EB:
They are the ones conducting this terrible bombing. They place their troops outside a city and use a weapon called Grad (Grad multiple rocket launcher system) which can send rockets quite far. So they locate [the Grad rockets] outside the city and bomb the city centre.

TP:
It sounds as if civilians bear the brunt of the suffering?

EB:
The civilians are really suffering. It seems to me that they are trying to destroy the infrastructure. They have not only bombed places where the so called separatists are located, they bombed government buildings, several hospitals, some schools, some buildings belonging to a local university and recently they bombed the national museum too.

Yesterday they bombed a building which is a place for youth. We call it the Youth Palace. It is where kids could go to sing and dance. It was terrible for me to watch this on the news because it is only 50 metres away from where my brother lives.

TP:
Are members of your family safe?

EB:
My family had to leave the city [of Donetsk] because of the situation. They went on vacation for three weeks but could not return home and had to stay in Kiev because it is too dangerous to return to Donetsk. All their belongings are in Donetsk.

TP:
Much of the media in Western Europe assert that the conflict in Ukraine is the fault of Russia and they make claims that Russia is arming the separatists.

EB:
I totally disagree because this conflict was, if you look our history, planned many years ago. More than 10 years ago. It was planned in 2002-2003 before the Orange revolution [2004-2005]. They tried to implement an American [friendly] regime at that time. They managed it temporarily but then the situation destabilised because [Julia] Tymoshenko and [Viktor] Yushchenko could not find common ground. So the plan to create a pro-American country was not realised. Also, Russian influence in the territory of Ukraine was stronger at that time. But now, with the removal of [Viktor] Yanukovych and all the people from the government who look favourably on Russia, they are finally realising their plan.

TP:
And what is this plan?

EB:
The plan is to bring NATO closer to the Russian border. They always wanted to control the territories near the Russian border.

TP:
Russia has naval base in the Crimean Peninsula. If Ukraine had become part of NATO prior to Crimea’s referendum to join Russia, there would have been a Russian naval base within NATO borders without the Russians having moved an inch.

EB:
There would have been a greater conflict if that had been the case.

TP:
I understand that during the cold war Ukraine had Soviet nuclear weapons located on its territory. Together with both Belarus and Kazakhstan, Ukraine chose to return its nuclear arsenal to Russia in 1991. I wonder how much tenser the situation would now be if Ukraine still possessed nuclear weapons on its territory.

EB:
I think that this crisis would not have happened and the relationship between Ukraine and Russian would have been closer.

TP:
So you think there would have been no crisis if Ukraine still had nuclear weapons?

EB:
The crisis was manufactured. We were living well as a neighbour with Russia and then all this propaganda started slowly two to three years ago.

TP:
What sort of propaganda and from where did it originate?

EB:
From the Western media. One by one, news stories started appearing about Russia being bad.

TP:
But a lot of Russians live in Ukraine.

EB:
Yes, a lot of Russians live in Ukraine. We are one nation, not in terms of nationality but we have the same ethnic roots, the same ethnic origin. We cannot say “oh, you are our enemy from today” because thousands of people have families either in Russia or Ukraine.

TP:
I understand there were many reported irregularities associated with President Poroshenko’s election in May. For example, I heard that opposition candidates were threatened and attacked. More recently there have been attempts to ban the Communist Party of Ukraine.

EB:
They are trying to remove all opposition which is not right. They are trying to remove anyone who says anything against the government. This is not right.

TP:
Do you believe that a coup took place in February 2014 when the Maidan protests in Kiev suddenly became violent?

EB:
The protest started because there was an EU free trade agreement and the Yanukovych government decided to sign another agreement with Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. This is where the protests came from but then the protests were used to remove Yanukovych.

TP:
And towards the end of February the protests became violent.

EB:
The shooting that took place was not done by Berkut [a special police unit that was part of the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs]. It was done by people dressed as Berkut; professional snipers.

TP:
I believe a similar situation took place in Venezuela during the failed coup d’etat attempt against the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in April 2002. The usual suspects in the media blamed Chavez after protestors were shot yet it later emerged that rogue elements within the army had been co-opted to shoot unarmed protestors in order to stir up panic and fear.

What do you think that we, as doctors, can we do to help solve the crisis in Ukraine?

EB:
As doctors we can send emphasise that two nuclear power states [USA and Russia] are participating in this conflict and this time it is more dangerous than it was during the cold war.

TP:
At least Ukraine does not possess nuclear weapons anymore.

EB:
Yes but USA and Russia do.

TP:
And what can we do to support the people in Eastern Ukraine who seek independence from Kiev?

EB:
Humanitarian help. At the moment, in Ukraine, if you say something [considered to be] anti-government, they call you a traitor and an enemy of the country and so it is not that easy to speak up.

TP:
What could doctors outside of Ukraine do to help?

EB:
Try to lobby the European Union and make them do something. When the conflict [in Eastern Ukraine] started back in March-April, not even a single European diplomat came to negotiate. During the months of March and April, when negotiations were still possible, it looked like they wanted this conflict.

TP:
I’ve just read in the newspaper today that the Opolchenie or separatist forces have pushed back the forces sent by Poroshenko, have gained ground in Eastern Ukraine and are moving towards the city of Mariupol.

EB:
Before they were on the defensive, now they are on the offensive.

TP:
The Western media takes a very dim view of the separatists.

EB:
The media should be honest because not only Russia is involved. A big part of the crisis was caused by the actions of the USA.

TP:
Is there a role for the Opolchenie?

EB:
Everyone should negotiate but the negotiations should be organised and negotiations just involving Russia are not enough. Representatives from the Opolchenie should be taking part in the negotiations. And not only the separatists but civilian representatives from the [seceding regions] should also participate in the negotiations. The local [people] from Donetsk who should be involved in discussing their future.

TP:
The media in the West constantly states that there are a great number of Russian soldiers fighting alongside resistance forces in Eastern Ukraine.

EB:
There are some but not many.

TP:
Is it more a case of local people resisting?

EB:
Yes but when it started local people mainly just wanted to demonstrate as they did not support the resistrictions imposed [by Kiev] to [remove Russian as an official language in Ukraine].

TP:
Was it the case that some of the people in Eastern Ukraine did not support the law to delegitimise the Russian language and later wanted to break away from Kiev, federalisation and greater autonomy, but then Poroshenko sent in the military and paramilitary forces.

EB:
Yes and instead of negotiations, Kiev started to bomb straight away without even [leaving] any space for negotiations. And the first order Poroshenko gave after becoming president was to send in the airforce.

TP:
I have heard of cases where Ukrainian army personnel have refused to carry out orders to attack civilians and so the Poroshenko regime has had to rely on volunteers.

EB:
The orders are very cruel. For example, the order to drops bombs from planes into the centre of a city is hard to carry out because you are bombing your own people.

TP:
I heard they had to form a force called the National Guard comprised of far right elements and other volunteers. Is the National Guard part of the Ukrainian army?

EB:
The [far right] have their own battalions like the Donbass and Azov battalions, [both] comprised of volunteers.

The National Guard and the Ukrainian army are separate. The Ukrainian army are financed by the state whilst the National Guard is financed by businessmen.

TP:
A private army?

EB:
Yes.

TP:
I’ve also heard reports of foreign volunteers coming to fight alongside the National Guard against the separatists.

EB:
Yes. I cannot name the exact nationalities. Hired people, for example, from the US but not part of the US army.

TP:
Do you mean mercenaries? And are they fighting alongside the National Guard?

EB:
Not alongside but within the National Guard.

TP:
So American mercenaries are on the ground in Ukraine. Thank you very much for your time.


EB's full name has been withheld to protect her and her family in Ukraine from potential retaliation

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