Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Donetsk Destroyed

"Until the end of May, all of us believed the situation in Luhansk and Donetsk was absurd and temporary. but in reality, it was the beginning of the end." 
  Prof. Igor Zagorodnyuk , U.of Luhansk, who fled death threats. (Science magazine, 2 Jan.2015)..

Dear Prof. Zagorodnyuk: There's no end in site, even as another round of peace talks is taking place.The prognosis looks grim.  Putin has gone over the top, hears nothing, listens only to the voices in his head. The Ghosts from Wars Past are telling him to rewrite history and show the world who's boss.  Donetsk destroyed, divided, denigrated, demolished, like Lugansk, like Crimea, will be his legacy.  
Donetsk airport destroyed, in total ruins.
(above and below, yahoo images). 
Donetsk city was a major steel and mining center with great cultural resources. 
You can think of it as "the Pittsburgh of Ukraine." 
Donetsk hospital, destroyed

Donetsk cathedral and downtown,
destroyed, mutilated &/or abandoned. 
Russian-armed soldiers, Russian soldiers, mercenaries and proxies with heavy weapons have invaded and occupied eastern Ukraine. They've created new divisions and loyalties where none or few existed before, or in any case where the differences were not matters of life and death.

They have with brute force occupied and dismantled airports and train stations, roads and transportation systems, universities and schools, hospitals and government buildings. They have captured, seized and tortured professors, NGO leaders, military personnel, and those who disagree with them.  One professor was taken from his classroom at gunpoint, interrogated, gassed, beaten. Ukrainian soldiers and prisoners have been mocked and paraded through the streets, spit on, humiliated.  The mercenaries and thugs have, without mercy, trampled over fields of wheat and sunflowers, like those where MH-17 was shot down by a BUK missile.  Crimea is gone, and the Tatars and anyone who supports them are suffering another form of holocaust.

These Russian-armed proxies know how to do only one thing: fight and destroy. Governance? Means nothing.  The whole situation still seems surreal and absurd. Almost a year later, and what do we have:  a large swath of destruction, brutal and excessive; 5,300 plus lives lost, untold wounded, mutilated; a refugee crisis; property damage in the billions of dollars.  Ukraine torn asunder.
Donetsk Football Stadium, once a shining light, destroyed, shut down
Donetsk National Medical School and other
parts of the university, destroyed, shut down,
or faculties moved outside of Donetsk.
The refugee crisis, depopulation, and a huge brain drain augment the total destruction. As a Kyiv blogger noted, most professionals, teachers, doctors, scientists, business people, civic and NGO leaders, entrepreneurs and people with ideas and dreams have left occupied Donetsk, and also Lugansk. Science Magazine (2 January 2015), reporting on the dissolution of Ukraine's scientific infrastructure, noted that "Kyiv authorities have moved 11 universities out of rebel-held territory in Donetsk and Lugansk. Science assets there and in Crimea are beyond their grasp."

Those who choose to remain or have no choice but to remain, my Kyiv friend says, are submerged daily in overwrought Russian propaganda that blames "Kyiv fascists" and their US allies for the war.  Some, nostalgic for Soviet times, believe they will be better off under Russian control.

The destruction is so great, the damage so excessive, that it will take billions to repair and replace.  And the costs keep going up.  Debaltseve, a transportation hub, is under relentless bombardment. Mariupol is threatened, as is Berdyansk (which has a huge refugee population).  Further north, Russian soldiers dared to attack Kramatorsk, the provisional headquarters of Donetsk oblast, a blatant disregard of Ukraine's sovereignty. Poroshenko, almost in shock, called it "a crime against humanity." Sudden bombings occur in major cities every day, including Khargiv, Kyiv, and Odessa. Terrorists bombings.

The Ice Hockey Arena, destroyed, burned.

Everyone knows that Ukraine does not have the army to defeat Russia's mighty military. US Congress member Marcy Kaptur (D, Ohio) says that "Ukraine is a sitting duck against the Russian bear."

Nor does Ukraine have the resources to rebuild the wastelands of Lugansk and Donetsk.The Ukrainian economy is on the verge of collapse. My blogger friend thinks Ukraine has little choice but to accept the de facto borders recognized at the first Minsk agreements in September 2014, agree to some buffer against further land grabs, and let Russia rule the ruins.  The Ukrainian people can't take this on, she argues, and most taxpayers don't want to pay for it. They are resigned to a Ukraine with new borders.  "Yes," says a dear friend in Starobelsk, so far safe from Russian aggression but ever in fear,  "let's have peace and let Russia rule the ruins."

Can some peace plan be achieved?  Will Putin withdraw his soldiers and weapons?  Can the US provide more economic development support and defensive military support (not offensive weapons aimed at Russia)? Will Ukraine be able to move forward and focus on its economy without a war on its back?   Don't know.    
At train station after shelling, fall 2014

Donetsk train station before the ruins. 

At the train station.  People cannot go by train to
or from Donetsk.  Same is true in Lugansk. 

President Poroshenko has said over and over that this is not a civil war, although Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts have been divided and destablized as never before. This war is rooted in an invasion of a sovereign territory by a foreign power that has run roughshod over its territorial integrity.  Withdraw, and the war will end.
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