Kyiv, 30 April 2014 – Pro-Ukrainian movement in the East of Ukraine is at risk and in need of immediate support from the central government. This concern was voiced by Oleg Saaknyan and Kateryna Kirilova, participants of the “Donetsk is Ukraine” movement and organizers of the biggest pro-Ukrainian rallies in Donetsk. Among other things, the activists demand effective protection of the East Ukraine residents by law enforcement bodies, presence of national mass media in conflict zones and assistance to local self-defense units.
According to Oleg Saakyan, “the civil movement has been consistently active, beginning with the first demonstration on March 4 which brought together 2500 demonstrators.” The activists also organized a rally on March 5 and a demonstration on March 13 during which tragic events took place resulting in the death of Dmytro Chernyavskyi. At the same time, the public activists said that according to their information, 7 people died on March 13 2014.
The Activists explain that suppression and distortion of information is the result of cooperation of law enforcement bodies and local government with the separatist groups. “Every day we hold demonstration in support of Ukraine, but the police accuse us of being agitators, pushing us into traffic, forcing us to take off our Ukrainian symbols and saying that they want federation and Russia,” said Kateryna Kirilova, “After peaceful demonstrators were attacked on Monday, April 28, the police and mass media said there were only 200 attackers although we have videos proving that there were more than 2000 of them.” Also, the activists say that the mass media do not provide adequate coverage of pro-Ukrainian rallies in the Donetsk region making it seem as if pro-Ukrainian population of the east is not active at all.
Public activists say that more permits to own firearms have been issued in the Donetsk region over the last week than in the last two years. Permits are being issued to members of separatist groups, while pro-Ukrainian self-defense members cannot obtain any. Armed separatists build checkpoints and search drivers. According to Kateryna Kirilova, separatist groups do not react to the counter-terrorism operation: “Ukrainian counter-terrorism operation is happening only on paper or on Facebook.”
According to the activists, because of Russia’s actions and the inactivity of the Ukrainian government Donetsk today is on the verge of a civil war. Oleg Saakyan says that while Ukraine lost Crimea painlessly, clashes have already begun in Donetsk between separatists and pro-Ukrainian activists. “There are people in Donetsk that take to the streets despite the danger to prove that Donetsk is a part of Ukraine. Now we can say that while yesterday the forefront of confrontation was in Kyiv, today it is in Donetsk. Today we urge the government and all citizens of Ukraine to take active action, because if Donetsk is lost, the destructive process will spread across Ukraine.”
Oleg Saakyan and Kateryna Kirilova are public activists, members of the “Donetsk is Ukraine” movement. The organized and took part in a number of demonstrations in Donetsk, including the “Donetsk is Ukraine” rally on April 28, 2014.