On August 30th, 2016, Anna Soroka, who is affiliated with the Peace for Lugansk (Мир Луганщине) “political party” (the party of LNR figurehead Igor Plotnitsky), gave an interview regarding the status quo in Lugansk, among other matters. Ms. Soroka is the director of the “We Won’t Forget, We Won’t Forgive!” (Не забудем, не простим!) project, which is sponsored by Peace for Lugansk.
The following is a translation of parts of Soroka’s interview:
Soroka (2:55): Every region [of Lugansk] has its own understanding of the summer of the year 2014, and the many events that followed. There are regions, where people understand what is happening now, where they’re sensitive to the cause of the armed conflict, and where they understand why we took up arms. Where people feel that they are on their own land, and where they are worthy descendants of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers who won the Great Patriotic War. But there are regions, where to this moment, people await the Ukrainian army.
Interviewer (3:35): You don’t say!
Soroka (3:38): That’s precisely true. I won’t mention exactly where, but these regions… let it be on their conscience, because really… people probably don’t understand what’s going on. How does this manifest itself? It manifests itself in that people, first of all… forget… don’t understand… consider it to be correct, that people died here. They consider it to be correct to await the Ukrainian army here, and they believe that it will bring good things to this land. But a healthy-minded individual should understand that the Ukrainian army can bring only death.
The interviewer comments that there are those who consider separatism as something akin to an infectious disease which must be cleansed. He clarifies that he was merely citing other people’s statements (lest he get in trouble with his handlers). Soroka replies that for years, Ukrainians from other regions had referred to people in the Donbas as vatniks (Ed: a term often applied by Ukrainians to politically and economically unsophisticated, anti-liberal, Russian jingoists), and stated that Donbas isn’t worthy of being part of Ukraine. According to Soroka, after Donbas “wanted to separate,” Ukrainians reversed their thinking.
While it is the true that many Ukrainians have traditionally often been critical of Donbas, and that there are strong stereotypes focused on the region’s lack of political sophistication, this negative image of Donbas has much to do with gangsterism that pervades its political scene (the despised Yanukovych/Akhmetov clan is the epitome of Donbas politics). Contrary to Soroka’s claims, there was no public support for the separation of any region – neither on a national level, nor on an oblast level.
Soroka proceeds to state:
Soroka (5:35): In Great Britain, in Scotland, every two years, there is a referendum. People are dissatisfied with some part of their lives. More historical-cultural, I think, than political or economical… but every two years, they hold a referendum. Warplanes don’t fly there, artillery isn’t brought there, cleansing and killings of peaceful citizens don’t occur.
Ukraine by itself didn’t start this. It was ordered. It was done by political order. And it will be carried out to its conclusion. Either Ukraine will be destroyed, or Donbas, unfortunately, will be at war for a very long time.
There are some intriguing statements in that passage. Soroka, who claims to have a legal education, appears to be genuinely ignorant of the Scottish/UK referendums. These referendums are not a regular biennial event, as Soroka implies, and at no point does she state the actual purpose of these referendums. In the 2014 referendum on its independence, Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom; in the 2016 United Kingdom referendum on membership in the European Union, the UK as a whole, voted against remaining a member of the EU (a vote which colloquially came to be known as “Brexit”), while the constituencies of Scotland, as a subset of the constituencies in the UK, voted in favor of staying in the EU. As response to “Brexit,” Scotland is planning a second referendum on independence.
As is generally the case in Russia’s hybrid war, the facts of any given matter are only important insofar as they can be contorted to conform to Russia’s military agenda. It’s worth discussing the distinctions between the Scottish/UK referendums, and the “referendums” that Russia has staged in Ukraine. In Scotland, there is a high level of popular support for independence from the UK, while there is relatively little public support for an independent Donbas, and in Scotland, unlike Donbas, there was genuine public demand to hold a referendum on independence. The Scottish/UK referendums were organized by the legitimate governments of those nations, rather than being staged by an invading country (in Eastern Ukraine’s case, Russia), which uses referendums to create the illusion of popular support for separatism. The Scottish/UK referendums are monitored by credible observers, whereas the Crimea and Donbas “referendums” were “monitored” by an assorted collection of fascists and communists imported by Russia specifically for the purpose of sanctioning Russia’s pre-ordained result. The Scottish/UK referendums posted real results, while Russia, (at least according to the Kremlin’s own Human Rights Council), fabricated its “referendum” numbers.
The premise that the war in Donbas was “ordered” appears to be an illusion to the Russian propaganda trope that Ukraine is fighting the war at the behest of the United States – an absurd assertion which ignores the fact that the Obama administration has effectively put Ukraine under an arms embargo, and has refused to provide offensive training to the Ukrainian army. It also ignores the clear evidence that, as admitted by Igor Girkin, Russia started the war in Donbas. Unfortunately, it’s likely to be true that the war in Donbas will continue for a long time; indeed, the war will continue as long as Putin believes that it furthers his goals.
Soroka (6:58): We have villages, where one street is Ukrainian, and the other belongs to The Republic. The rebels simply cannot walk through these Ukrainian streets, where people scoff, and say, “well, did you battle it out? Anything good come out of it?”
It’s necessary to carry out work with people. Law enforcement must work more forcefully on these [pro-Ukrainian] people. So that people begin to understand where they are, and by whose grace they live right now.
The above text represents approximately the first half of the interview. The second half includes a horrific depiction of the entirely unnecessary Russian-Ukrainian war in Donbas, colored by the prejudices of the commentators. The interviewer and Soroka discuss the many “rebels” who needlessly died in service to Russia’s agenda in Ukraine, and were buried en masse, without identification, as well as the many people who have gone missing without a trace. While Soroka expresses genuine grief at the damage that the war has wrought upon Donbas, she exhibits no understanding of the external factors that caused the war, nor does she have any sympathy for the fact that the LNR movement with which she is aligned, is antithetical to the public will, and indeed, to the well-being of Donbas.
The apparent purpose of Ms. Soroka’s “We Won’t Forget, We Won’t Forgive!” project includes the attribution of blame for the war in Donbas to the government of Ukraine, and the creation and dissemination of propaganda in order to promote that message – naturally, the stated goals of the project present a more benevolent façade, including extolling the bravery of the “heroes” of the LNR, reinforcing the usual Russian propaganda rhetoric about combating “fascism,” and the commemoration of the events of the current war in Donbas (and the war is indeed horrific), which the LNR naturally attribute to Ukraine, instead of to Russia, and its agents, such as Girkin. While the government-controlled areas of Ukraine have undergone decommunization, should you desire to speak to Ms. Soroka in person, her office is located at 7 Karl Marx Street, in Lugansk, which remains occupied by Russia.