A little beyond that I met a man standing outside of the home he shares with his wife.
I asked whether his home had been damaged and he laughs: "Many times. Which house hasn't been? The roof, the wall" from mortar fire and heavy machine-gun fire."
His replies are in line with those of the others I've spoken to: things got worse after Zelensky became president; the attacks are daily; where would he go? He is in favor of joining Russia.
He continued, asking rhetorically:
"We should go to Ukraine, which damaged my house? I'm Russian, this is Russian land. Everyone who knows history knows this. Of course, I want to join Russia! In earlier times, before the war, I didn't care either way. But after all, Ukraine did what it has done; absolutely I want to be a part of Russia. I can't imagine being back in Ukraine. Anyway, most of the people here would be killed as 'separatists.' A known Ukrainian politician [Boris Filatov] said: 'At the beginning, give them what they want, later hang them.'
I asked him if he had anything to say to a Western audience. At first, he said there's no point, people already know, the West gives money to Ukraine" "The snipers use U.S. rifles, if they gave less money it would be better."
But later in our conversation, he added:
Going back to the question of a message to the West"You remember WW2. Why do you support Nazis if you remember WW2? Why do you now support the Nazis? Openly Nazis. They wear swastikas. Why is Europe silent? Everyone comes here and agrees with me, but nothing changes. OSCE shouts, but when they are under fire, they are silent, they don't say that Ukraine attacks them."
Later, I interviewed Ryka, a young-looking DPR platoon commander who accompanied me to the area. She began: "When it began, it was peaceful rallies, he supported these" then it turned to war. I was against the coup in Kiev, I didn't support the Nazi regime. That's why I joined peaceful protests."
Ryka married during the war and has two children and the full support of his family regarding his role in defending the DPR. He says, "My father served and died in battle for Donetsk airport, in January 2015." His home is under Ukrainian occupation, he says. He fought from the beginning, at most of the major battles in the DPR, and finally here.
I asked whether he is aware of how Western media portrays those defending the DPR:
Of course the portrayal is negative. They don't see it with their own eyes. You came here, but very few people come here to understand personally and talk with me. Most see it only from the Ukrainian point of view. The people who support Ukraine and the Ukrainian army should come here and talk with civilians, to understand what the civilians really think about the Ukrainian government and the local government - whom do they really support, and how much did they suffer. Maybe if they see, they'll change their minds."
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