How Russia Plans to “De-Ukrainize” Captured Territories
The Russian projects go beyond the two priority demands of the negotiations – the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk; and recognize Crimea as Russian territory.
Securing the Donbass region will not be enough to guarantee that Russia’s borders are safe from the “anti-Russian” and “pro-Western” regime in kyiv. Therefore, there is no intention to return to the captured eastern Ukrainian territories and go beyond the Donbass region.
India Today visited Zaporizhzhia Oblast, where the process of “de-Ukrainization” and “Russification” of areas under Russian control has already begun. These areas are under direct Russian control since the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) or the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) cannot claim claims in areas outside the Donbass region.
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Captured towns have new acting mayors who have been appointed by Russia, while Ukrainian mayors have either left office, left town, or been detained and forcibly expelled. Melitopol is a classic example of a radical takeover. The Kyiv-appointed mayor, Igor Federov, was arrested and later released. Mayor Galina Danil’chenko, who was an opposition leader with pro-Russian leanings, has now been nominated. The Prosecutor General of Ukraine has opened a treason investigation into Danilchenko. But, the mayor sat in his chair undeterred and determined to follow Moscow’s plans.
She explained why it was necessary to separate from Ukraine: “Historically, Zaporizhzhia was very close to Russia, not only culturally but also economically. Before 2014, when the coup took place in Kyiv (change of administration after the Euromaidan protests that led to the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych), we had very close ties with Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan after 2014, it was forbidden to export to Russia. kyiv promised that European markets would buy our products, but that did not happen. The EU has not opened up for us. Zaporizhzhia is a very large industrial city and many support economic cooperation, political engagement with the Russian Federation.
The irony is that ‘Victory Square’, the site of many protests and a place that celebrated Ukrainian identity, its national hero/poet Taras Shevchenko and the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag, is now the administrative center for Russians .
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The main flagpole bears the remains of a tattered Ukrainian flag. Instead, a Russian flag now flies above a building that used to be the “Taras Shevchenko Cultural Center” and is now the mayor’s office. Long lines of people register outside the building to receive help. Most of them were refugees/IDPs from Mariupol. They are Ukrainians of Russian origin fleeing to areas under Russian control. Such is the divide in this country.
When asked if Melitopol and the captured areas of Zaporizhzhia would ever return to Ukraine, if the negotiations between Russia and Ukraine were successful and the two agreed on the conditions regarding Donbass and Crimea, she rejected the idea and proposed a referendum in the region.
“We want to stay with Russia, not with Ukraine. Surely we will hold a referendum and it will be the decision of the people of our city if they want to be part of the Russian Federation,” she said.
These parts of eastern Ukraine have also seen silent revolts, as there is a large Russian population in the region. We also caught up with Melitopol District Chief Siguta Andrew Leonidovich who said “Russian” as the official language will be restored and the city will see a huge change from yellow and blue to many other colors. On April 25, 2019, Ukraine passed a “language law” banning Russian from its official communication, which Russia called “discriminatory” and “forced Ukrainianization of the country”.
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“We have the example of Crimea where there are three state languages and people have the right to choose. For our children in this region where we are mostly Russian-speaking, the new laws were very difficult. At home the children speak Russian, but in the schools Ukrainian is compulsory. They were pushing the Ukrainian language and culture. But we will give the children a choice between Russian and Ukrainian,” he said.
On a lighter note, he added: “Well, most of the time everyone spoke and communicated in Russian, so when the law was introduced there were many errors in the official documents. In fact, most also spoke Russian during the meetings. So if the language law is scrapped, everyone will breathe a sigh of relief.
Traveling through Ukraine, one realizes the great importance that the government attaches to the celebration of the colors of the national flag and the awakening of nationalist feelings. While in Lviv, which is in the far west, these colors are less noticeable when traveling from west to east, the colors are more pronounced, highlighting the nation’s insecurity in maintaining diversity. Population. In eastern Ukraine, almost all public assets are colored yellow and blue – bus stops, checkpoints, sidewalk ramps, hospitals, banks, even the huge power poles in the hinterland.
In the conquered territories, the same bus stops now look abandoned, the destroyed infrastructure bids farewell to the colors. The new infrastructure will certainly have no sign of its old masters.
In Berdyansk too, a similar process has begun. Mayor Alexander Sualenko, who was also replaced by Russia as his predecessor left the city, said he would let the people decide, reiterating the call for a referendum. “Zaporizhzhia is not returning to Ukraine. Berdyansk will certainly fly the Russian flag. I have been replaced by Russia for now. But in time there will be elections here to elect a mayor and we will also hold a referendum to leave Ukraine,” he said.
Fifty days after the start of the war, these areas are still not integrated, but the process has begun. For example, the currency used in these cities is always the Ukrainian Grevenia. While there was internet access, Russian and Donetsk numbers did not work. The Ukrainian networks were working. Interestingly, Indian telecom connection international roaming has started working there, although the same does not work in Donbass region as it is considered captured territory and comes under heavy sanctions.
There are six critical regions (oblasts) that Russia watches on the Eastern Front.
To the north of the Donbass region, there are two regions, Sumy and Kharkiv, which have land borders with Russia. He works. Kilometers.
To the south of the Donbass region extending to Moldova are – Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Mykolayiv and Odessa. If these areas are captured, it would be the greatest strategic loss for Ukraine, as it would cut Ukraine off from the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, making Ukraine landlocked. kyiv risks losing its naval force if Moscow succeeds. Russia wants Crimea to be secure and envisions the enormous strategic and economic advantage it would derive from these regions.
Southern Zaporizhzhia came under Russian control, which includes the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the facility which is actually located in the city of Enerhodar in southeastern Ukraine, on the southern bank of the reservoir of Kakhovka on the Dnieper. Thus creating a natural border between the Russian forces, which seized the factory on the ninth day of their invasion, and the Ukrainian forces which are now positioned on the north bank of the river.
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“The power station is crucial for the electricity supply of all these eastern regions. It is good that it is under our control since we also need it for future supply. It will not be returned,” Mayor Alexander Sualenko said.
Russian forces had stormed the facility causing damage to the administrative building, but for now the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which while acknowledging the seriousness of the assault, stressed that the action took place far from the reactors. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi referred to a single projectile hitting a training building adjacent to the reactor complex.
For Ukraine, it is essential to take control of the plant because it generates more than a fifth of the total electricity produced in Ukraine and almost half of the country’s electricity derived from nuclear energy.
Mayor Alexander said it would never be returned to Ukraine because it is as important to them as it is to Ukraine. It is the main source of electricity for the eastern parts of Ukraine, now under Russian control. Critical infrastructure and therefore a fierce battle is underway to regain control from the Ukrainians.
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