Russia, as an independent state, doesn't owe anything to anyone. The only guilt of Russia, in my opinion, is that nationalism - which, in the period of Ukraine's separation from Russia started to actively develop here. I mean the fascism, it wasn't crushed in the past.
Ukrainian nationalism became so impudent that the Odessa massacre was permitted. Everyone speaks about Donetsk and Lugansk, while such an anti-Maidan movement also emerged in Kharkiv [in northeast Ukraine], which was strongly quashed, as it was in Odessa.
The people here had no other choice: it was either enter into a ghetto or for civilians to take up arms to defend their freedom.
The first and subsequent leaders of the Republics were a spontaneous thing. They were not self-appointed, they were indeed appointed by the people, and they pronounced the will of the people. This was at the very beginning, in 2014.
Ukraine chose the violent option and tried to crush the will of the people, to impose its nationalism.
For Russia, as the older brother [a term of endearment], there was no other choice. It started to help from the beginning of the conflict [in Donbass]. Russia was the first to bring humanitarian aid here. Russia was the first to speak about negotiations.
From 2014 to 2019, Russia has affirmed that this conflict [in Donbass] is an internal one, that we [Russia] don't intervene - we are spectators - and that we don't allow the Minsk Agreements to be disrupted. Ukrainians should solve it with the DPR/LPR.
Russia does everything possible o bring to reason and to disengage the sides. Russia shouldn't do anything [in terms of intervention]. It's not Russia's war."
The Donetsk journalist with whom I was traveling chimed in:
I don't understand people who expect Russia to take on our fight. The people of Donbass are independent and smart enough to decide for ourselves. Although in 2014 we didn't have enough resources to fight on our own, it's not good to expect Russia to do something.
We in Donbass should be very grateful to Russia for any kind of support, but at the same time not try to force Russia to do something, not say what Russia 'must' do."
Before we left for Krutaya Balka, Evgeniy invited us to have lunch in the canteen upstairs. Observing the camaraderie over lunch, it was clear that "The Bullet" had the respect and affection of the soldiers sharing his meal.
In Krutaya Balka, at a home 800 meters from the front-line, I spoke with an engaging older couple. The man waved at me and asked with a grin what's happening in Canada. Days before, their area was shelled for an hour, 26 shells fired by Ukrainian forces.
I began with the most basic question: how had they been affected by the war? The man replied:
To say just in one word that it affected us is like saying nothing. In 2014, my father-in-law, he was 90, he was lying down - he couldn't walk, he was invalid. A mortar shell landed on the road, and the shock-wave smashed the glass inwards into his house. He didn't understand what happened, he said to me: 'Who is this hooligan who broke my window?'
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