In Ukraine’s east, some beg for Russian iron hand

Comment: Off

In this photo taken Tuesday, March 11, 2014, men debate as people gather in a pro Russian camp in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine. The breakup of the Soviet Union and harsh economic realities of the market haven’t been kind to many local employers. Residents say many factories, including the locomotive works, have had to drastically cut both payrolls and production. Since Russian troops rolled into Crimea, and lawmakers there scheduled a referendum for Sunday on whether to join Russia, the world’s attention has focused on the fate of the lush peninsula that juts into the Black Sea. But here in Ukraine’s coal-fired industrial east, where Russians have lived for more than two centuries, a potent mix of economic depression, ethnic solidarity and nostalgia for the certainties of the Soviet past have many demanding the right to become part of Russia as well (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

In this photo taken Tuesday, March 11, 2014, men debate as people gather in a pro Russian camp in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine. The breakup of the Soviet Union and harsh economic realities of the market haven’t been kind to many local employers. Residents say many factories, including the locomotive works, have had to drastically cut both payrolls and production. Since Russian troops rolled into Crimea, and lawmakers there scheduled a referendum for Sunday on whether to join Russia, the world’s attention has focused on the fate of the lush peninsula that juts into the Black Sea. But here in Ukraine’s coal-fired industrial east, where Russians have lived for more than two centuries, a potent mix of economic depression, ethnic solidarity and nostalgia for the certainties of the Soviet past have many demanding the right to become part of Russia as well (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

In this photo taken Tuesday, March 11, 2014, a man places a Ukrainian flag atop a tent alongside flags from Russia, center, and Belarus, left, at a tent camp set up by pro Russia activists in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine. Luhansk was home to one of the Soviet Union’s blue-ribbon factories that turned out locomotives deemed good enough to be designated IS–the Russian-language initials of Josef Stalin. Since Russian troops rolled into Crimea, and lawmakers there scheduled a referendum for Sunday on whether to join Russia, the world’s attention has focused on the fate of the lush peninsula that juts into the Black Sea. But here in Ukraine’s coal-fired industrial east, where Russians have lived for more than two centuries, a potent mix of economic depression, ethnic solidarity and nostalgia for the certainties of the Soviet past have many demanding the right to become part of Russia as well.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

In this photo taken Tuesday, March 11, 2014, pro Russian activists, one of them holding a Ukrainian flag, stand around a camp they set up in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine. In Ukraine’s coal-fired industrial east, a potent mix of economic depression, ethnic solidarity and nostalgia for the certainties of the Soviet past among those old enough to remember them have many people demanding the right to become part of Russia as well. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

In this photo taken Tuesday, March 11, 2014, women listen to a statement given earlier in the day by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich from Rostov-on-Don, Russia in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine. The pro-Moscow president fled office last month after prolonged street protests and bloodshed in Kiev, and was succeeded by a government made up of politicians friendlier to the United States and European Union. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

In this photo taken Tuesday, March 11, 2014, people read notices placed on an information board at a pro Russia camp set up in the town of Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, March 11, 2014. In 2010, the year of Ukraine’s last presidential election, Luhansk gave 89% of its votes to Victor Yanukovych, a native of another town in the Donbas coal mining region. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Buy AP Photo Reprints

LUHANSK, Ukraine (AP) — Lidia Gany had some tea and bread, all she can afford these days for most meals, put on her duffel coat with the fake purple fur collar, and came down to the main square of this down-at-the-heels industrial city at Ukraine’s eastern edge to join fellow ethnic Russians in urging Moscow to send troops across the border and protect them.

“Only Russia can save us,” said the 74-year-old pensioner, crossing herself.

Since Russian troops rolled into Crimea, and lawmakers there scheduled a referendum for Sunday on whether to join Russia, the world’s attention has focused on the fate of the lush peninsula that juts into the Black Sea. But here in Ukraine’s coal-fired industrial east, where huge numbers of Russians have lived for more than two centuries, a potent mix of economic depression, ethnic solidarity and nostalgia for the certainties of the Soviet past have many demanding the right to become part of Russia as well.

“I’m for living in one country, with no borders, like we used to. Like the fingers on one hand,” said 60-year-old Lyudmila Zhuravlyova, who signed a petition asking for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military invention to stop “political persecution and physical annihilation of the Russian-speaking and Orthodox population.”

In Luhansk and other eastern Ukraine cities, some men have formed militia groups such as “Luhansk Guard,” the “People’s Auxiliary” as Russian news broadcasts swarm with alleged atrocity stories about attacks on ethnic Russians and Jews in Ukraine — helping to spur the secession drive and the anxieties that underlie it. The Associated Press and other international media have found no evidence of victimization.

On Sunday, in a possible portent of more trouble to come, pro-Russian demonstrators overran the regional government headquarters just off Soviet Street and forced Gov. Mikhail Bolotskih to sign a resignation letter.

“Among them were young aggressive people in an intoxicated condition, inappropriate condition, with bats, sticks, and it was obvious they were armed with some other kinds of weapons,” the governor, who is

Comments

comments

About the Author