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Ukraine's War on Donbass: An Interview with Filmmaker Maxim Fadeev

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It was not easy to face frightened women, children, relatives of the deceased. There were two typical reactions to the impacts: people either used strong swear words, or, mostly women did it, lowered their voices to a whisper.

At times my colleagues asked me why I filmed people cursing. I did it because everyone curses after they are hit by artillery strikes. When people started to whisper, it was slightly like insanity. I don't know how to describe the feeling. You are walking along the street, looking at broken out windows, and the inhabitants come out in slippers, and a man asks you in whisper: "Do you know what you should do to prevent windows breaking out? Open them as for airing." People start to converse in whispers.

"One woman was crying over the body of her killed husband lying on the kitchen floor, and most of all she worried if she could find a way to bury him.

It was scary to watch the reaction of the children"

Too many militiamen, whom I filmed, were killed in action in the course of these five years that the war has been going on. My father died and three of my close relatives died, and I was not able to attend their funerals or visit their graves. I haven't seen my mom for four years now. And no one knows, when this all will end."

-EB: Have you ever filmed or witnessed war crimes by the Ukrainian army?

-MF: "I think that during the first phase of the war, from May till August of 2014, the Ukrainian Army committed many war crimes. The unreasonable heavy shelling-including with multiple rocket launchers with cluster bomb units-of densely populated areas. They fired at civilian infrastructure.

In the course of a month, the UAF never hit rebel fortifications in Semyonovka. But the pumping station of the Severskiy Donets - Donbass water channel that provided the entire region with water, was destroyed by the UAF twice in June of 2014. The people, who were engaged in repairing of the pipeline, were killed as a result of the shelling. The station was intentionally destroyed, in my opinion.

As a journalist, I always tried to investigate from which positions firing occurred, and what objects were targeted. Even if their aim was, say, a roadblock in a private housing section, they fired on an area of about a square kilometer, destroying everything.

I saw in August of 2015, although it was not possible to record, a tank coming to the belt road of Donetsk each evening and firing all its ammunition load in the direction of the city. It chose maximum range and fired absolutely indiscriminately. I was able to film the results of the shelling, but I could not get closer than a kilometer from the tank. I saw perfectly well the location of this tank and I saw the impact sites.

I tried to do the same in Slavyansk. Many people still say: 'The shelling was carried out by the rebels.' It was not so, I did investigate, I came as close to the enemy's positions as possible, and then, with the help of the witnesses testimonies, Ukrainian reports in free access and satellite images, I found out where such and such batteries were located and what objects they targeted.

They blatantly violated international humanitarian law, violated a rules of warfare rules. Even the Geneva Conventions of 1945 was violated. Article 51 reads: "Neither civilian population as such nor civilian persons shell be the object of attack."

Even the UN registered that at the moment there was no Russian presence in Donbass. It was an inner civil conflict, and our side did not even have grenade launchers, they only had shot guns. And when the UAF brought artillery here, armaments captured from Ukrainian forces were the initial weapons of the DPR army.

The problem with this conflict is that it is very complex, multilevel, and there are many participants. It is not easily explained to people who have little interest in the events in the post-Soviet space.

There was a country that was called the USSR, and it was inhabited by all kinds of Soviet people, who all accepted a certain social convention - it was accepted at the time when this country was created. Those people agreed to live in this country.

Ukraine was established, and its inhabitants were sure that they all were building the same country. They cohabited in it.

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Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Palestine. She is a recipient of the International Journalism Award for International Reporting. Visit her personal blog,  (more...)

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