Why Did Almost Third of Donetsk and Lugansk Residents Support the Separatists? Human Rights Activists’ Point of View

Human rights activists claim that the major contribution to the conflict that arose in Regions of Donetsk and Lugansk was made by the representatives of the administrative, legal and local governmental authorities. The created system of labour and land exploitation in Donbas, which was fully controlled by the Ukrainian oligarchs, has transformed into nothing but a form of neo-feudalism. These conditions led to the deterioration of the public administration system together with industrial and social structure.

According to Oleksandr Bukalov, the head of the human rights organisation “Donetsk Memorial”, Russia made the best use of the problems in the region to foment a conflict (the scale of unemployment, decline in the industry, black economy, including small illegal coalmines, over-exploitation of labour and land resources, smuggling, etc.). If we will add another two factors:

– all our billionaires were making their fortune exactly in the Region of Donbas;

–  large amount of people constantly going to Russia to work

we will understand why did this mafia-controlled region so desperately aspire to federalization, why the roads to Moscow are straighter than to Kiev, why Yanukovich was considered here as an “own father” and why did almost 30% of region’s population actively support separatists.

Human rights activists sent a number of appeals to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Security Service and Prosecutor General's Office to find out what actions have been taken by these bodies during February – May 2014. Are those responsible for the initiation of the conflict have been arrested? Currently only the Security Service replied to our appeal. But their reply doesn’t indicate that competent authorities have any effective means of combating separatism.

According to Mykola Kozyrev, head of the Lugansk Public Committee for the defence of constitutional rights and liberties: “During the years of independence there have been created a classic neo-feudal system of rental economy controlled by the oligarchs. Was formed a new ruling class, which was getting profit in the field of industry and agriculture not with the help of technological innovations and development on the competitive market but through the over-exploitation of labour and land resources. The wage-labour system actually transformed into some kind of slavery.

Under these conditions, in society began to dominate the relations of personal dependence, when employees depend on their employers. And considering the fact that almost 700 thousand of employees in the Region of Lugansk were feeding 750 thousand of retirees, we can come to the conclusion that the majority of people going to elections are poor and dependent and that is why they vote for those they depend on. It is these social groups that had all reasons to think that two decades of independent Ukraine were the years of deterioration of living conditions and loss of prospects for young people.

Human rights activists indicate the main factors, which led to such a scenario in Donbas

– Apathy and helplessness of governmental institutions; high correlation between influential officials of the region and Russian business and government;

– Determined cultivation of cultural commitment to Russia among the political, business and humanitarian elite of the region;

– Decline in industrial and social structure; major black economy and high level of unemployment and poverty; domination of paternalism and personal dependence on the “authorities” in society;

– Inaction of the professional class, which has been still living in accordance with the soviet state of mind.

– Russian military aggression and lack of state’s adequate reaction to the actions of our neighbour.

The event was organized with the assistance of the International Renaissance Foundation.

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