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A city in Donbass held by Russia

#city #Donbass #held #Russia

In a video broadcast on a Russian channel, Lyman’s “new” police chief says the intruders were greeted happily by residents with shouts of “Russia is finally here!”

Now in Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine, just 42 kilometers away, police chief Igor Ugnivenko, who was forced to flee by Russian troops, laughs bitterly.

“I don’t know who this guy is,” he said.

“But just look at him sitting in my office on the chair my wife bought for me! Look at the tag on his shirt: USSR.”

“USSR! It’s crazy,” said the 37-year-old, shaking his head in disbelief.

Major Ugnivenko still introduces himself as the chief of Lyman’s police force.

He left the city on May 23 after weeks of shelling and a major offensive by Russian troops that forced the Ukrainians to retreat.

In Kramatorsk, the administrative center of Donetsk region that Moscow wants to take over, Ugnivenko keeps in touch with some Lyman residents and wants to talk about the situation in the city.

“It’s tough on civilians,” said the chief, who wore a black uniform. “There is no electricity, gas or water. I don’t know how or if food aid will be sent.”

His claims could not be independently verified by AFP.

– “A Road to Nowhere” –

About 8,000 people remain in Lyman – compared to 25,000 before the Russian invasion.

Fighting broke out as early as 2014, when Russian-backed separatists took over part of the region and many civilians “waited for the Russians to arrive,” Ugnivenko said.

“Today they are screaming that everything is going well, that the Soviet Union is back,” said the officer, who was only four when the Soviet Union collapsed.

“I’m not from a Soviet generation, I hardly knew it. I went to a Ukrainian school and university,” he told AFP.

“I speak perfect Ukrainian and I have no problem with the west of the country,” he added, citing some locals’ concerns about the government in Kyiv.

“It seems crazy, but what’s happening in Lyman is a real throwback. And it’s a road to nowhere,” he said.

Private property and businesses have been confiscated and are being “nationalized” by the Donetsk People’s Republic, the self-proclaimed entity of separatists fighting alongside Russian forces, Ugnivenko said.

– ‘Russian World’ –

A working-class town like many in the industrial Donbass region, Lyman has always made a living from the railroad — an industry that employs half the population.

“Many workers stayed in Lyman. They thought they could keep working,” Ugnivenko said.

“But the Russians took their equipment and transported the material to Debaltseve, about 140 kilometers to the south,” which is controlled by separatists.

“What disappoints me is that people didn’t understand what to expect. Some people have wanted the ‘Russian world’ for years, but will now be disappointed. What future do they have? None!” he added.

“We might have been a small town, but we had the railroad and also a regional trauma center” that opened in 2015 and employed medical staff who fled the city of Donetsk when it came under separatist control in 2014.

Ugnivenko said the building was now partially destroyed and the doctors had left.

Local residents may choose to leave, but only towards Russia or separatist-held areas, he added.

“I want my four children to live in a legal state where they can travel as they want,” added Ugnivenko, who sent his family to the city of Dnipro from the front.

“Sooner or later we will liberate our cities,” he told AFP, recalling the idyllic life he led in Lyman until a few months ago.

“I had the house of my dreams. A two-storey wooden house on the edge of the forest. It was shelled and burned down in 15 minutes.”

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#city #Donbass #held #Russia

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