Residents of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk have lashed out at troops entering the city’s streets with outrage and insults. The soldiers were supposed to be "liberating the people from pro-Russian terrorists,” according to the Kiev government.
The ongoing military crackdown on anti-government activists in eastern Ukraine has been portrayed as a noble quest of freeing the locals “kept hostage” by the so-called “terrorists” and “separatists.” Coup-imposed Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov recently branded the campaign “an anti-terrorist operation against the sabotage group of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the Russian Federation” on his Facebook page.
Curiously, however, eastern Ukrainians “liberated” by the Kiev troops have not at all been grateful for the armored vehicles roaming through their cities and military men with and without insignia shooting at supporters of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic. Dozens of armed self-defense activists and unarmed civilians supporting them have reportedly been injured or killed since the start of the military operation in the Donetsk Region, where many people have openly rallied in favor of a referendum on autonomy from Kiev.
In the city of Kramatorsk, which for weeks has been an active stronghold of anti-government sentiments, locals took to the streets after Ukrainian troops arrived on APCs and forced self-defense troops to a small cluster in the central square.
Defiant of the armed vehicles and sniper rifles pointed at them, residents were filmed approaching the troops to have their say.
“Fascists! Fascists!” the locals chanted, casting insults on the troops and the Kiev government. Kiev authorities are commonly referred to as the “fascist junta” in the east of the country, because of their takeover of power in February and the government's alliance with nationalists – including the notorious Right Sector radical group.
“What kind of law and order are you bringing here?! We are the f*****g residents of the Donetsk Region, not you!” one man shouted. Many of the soldiers interviewed by RT stringer Graham Phillips revealed they had come from western Ukrainian regions, including Lvov and Ivano-Frankovsk. Kiev has been apparently relying on regional and ethnic differences in Ukraine while launching the military action, as a large part of eastern Ukrainian armed forces and police have been unwilling “to fire at our own people.”
The crowd in Kramatorsk grew even angrier as one of the Ukrainian APCs rammed a road sign, bringing it down.
“Get back to Kiev! You are not welcome here! Get out! It is our land!” residents shouted.
The troops could then be seen suddenly mounting the APCs and leaving the area. The crowd rushed to chase them, shouting “Donbass! Donbass! Glory to Donbass!”.
The historical Russian region, which spans through several modern eastern Ukrainian regions and is commonly associated with its mining industry and metallurgy, Donbass became part of the Ukrainian SSR at the beginning of the Soviet era, but has nevertheless retained a strong local identity.
According to a common stereotype, most residents of the strongly-industrial region believe they are the real breadwinners of Ukraine, “feeding” the western part of the country. The notion is ridiculed by western Ukrainians, some of whom call residents of Donetsk Region “ignorant” and “brainwashed” people.
Now many of the locals are rejecting the rule of the coup-imposed Kiev government, which is dominated by parties relying on popular support in western and, to a lesser extent, central Ukraine. The fact that much of the eastern population is Russian-speaking and has cultural and family ties with Russia has been used for delegitimizing the popular protests as “pro-Russian insurgency” in Ukrainian and Western media. However, despite accusations of “separatism,” most people protesting in eastern Ukraine have been preaching for the federalization of the country and for an autonomous rule – not for joining Russia.
At least six people have been killed and 15 injured since the start of the Kiev military operation in Kramatorsk on Friday, according to Donetsk Regional Administration. The local self-defense unit contradicts the official count, saying that 10 people were killed in fighting overnight and at least two others were shot by government snipers during street battles on Saturday.