Lugansk – at the back of the frontline
After the visit to the Donetsk Republic, I expected that Lugansk would be similar – suspicious “separatists”, noisy babushkas, aggressive slogans, chaos, rubbish... In fact the revolution at the rear of the frontline took me completely by surprise – and in a positive way. Here I am at last, at a place which resembles Kiev’s Maidan at its better times. Open space, a double line of professionally constructed barricades, separate tents for each locality of the region, field showers... Even though the self-defence forces brandish Kalashnikovs, they are quiet. It is clean, around one of the watchouts, the soldier on duty was sweeping up twigs and sand.
In addition, in the space around SBU’s building has been adapted to form the Lugansk Republic, there is a playground for children, and benches and even an orthodox church; almost a genuine republic. When we’re loitering about too much, they reproach us but without being aggressive. It is clear that a threat of a terrorist action is pure theory to them and so a journalist is not immediately deemed a potential spy. People are willing to talk to us. Nearly everyone is in favour of joining Russia, for various reasons – someone because of a “Russian soul”, young people because of “more opportunities”. When we speak to them outside of the republic’s borders, city residents are less radical. Many of them prefer to stay within the borders of Ukraine but as part of a mythical federation. And no one here likes the government in Kiev, not even the local “ultras” – supporters of the "Zoria" football club who are pro-Ukrainian by definition.