Donetsk, May 20
Yesterday at midnight, the oligarch Akhmetov called a strike to protest against the war and especially against the pro-Russians, whose rebellion, according to him, would have devastated the East of the country. The strike turned into a fiasco. The participation of the workers has been modest, with no statement or position taken. They gave the impression of being forced to attend by their employer.
Early afternoon. Three men chase somebody on a side street of Artyom avenue—the main avenue of the city. A few cars pass, the drivers honking. It’s an act of dissent against the Donetsk People’s Republic. But it does not proselytize. Soon some of the separatists spring into action with iron bars and bats and hit the cars. The honking ceases.
Two hours later, a military truck blocks an intersection near the former firefighters barracks. The soldiers disembark wearing combat gear and pointing machine guns in the direction of the Ukrainian Security Service building (СБУ). Circulation of vehicles is interdict, pedestrians are moved away. I find myself crouching behind a tree in the company of a blonde Ukrainian photographer. Another photographer and some of the curious are behind us. A soldier sees us, strides over and gives the order to clear out.
I pass over the block through an alley and arrive at another intersection adjacent to the barracks. Even here there’s a military truck. And here also, another soldier saying I must leave. Once again, along with others I make a wide turn and step out into a street where two cars drop another squad of soldiers with faces covered by balaclavas. They lurk at the edge of the road.
The whole operation takes about an hour. Nobody can see what happens. Then, rapidly, the soldiers go back on the cars and are driven away.
Like every other day there are people in front of the entrance of the ex Regional State Administration Building, surrounded by barricades and barbed wire. At 5:20 pm, Denis Pushilin, Chairman of the Donetsk People’s Republic, arrives dressed in his usual blue suit, encircled by a dozen security guards in bulletproof vests. He walks into the crowd, who applauds him. He smiles, looking calm, confident and serene, such as a few days ago, when leaving the building he had stopped to patiently answer all of his supporters’ questions.