It's not the first year that the Kremlin has been declaring the expansion of the "geography of challenges" for Russia, including from the collective West. And Russia intends to confront these "challenges", as is almost always the case, with the help of its army and weapons. UNIAN was figuring out whether Ukraine would become an arena for such confrontation, given the high risks that are out there.
Sniper Serhiy Varakin: I don't need peace, I need victory. I can't imagine myself walking around Donetsk, saying hi to those who were shooting at me yesterday
Sniper unit commander Serhiy Varakin, call sign "Smile", in an interview with UNIAN told about the "handwriting" of different snipers, why the Army needs to get rid of the tradition to assign top-class specialists for duty in a cafeteria or at the checkpoints, how to create ideal conditions for the military, and how he counters those who join the Army solely for good pay.
Russia is pursuing the "hot" phase of its war on the territory of Ukraine, also waging a hybrid one. Shortly after pretending to withdraw troops earlier deployed along Ukraine borders "for drills", Russia decided to block the Sea of Azov for navigation for six months, until the end of October, launching yet another "exercise." How massive is the damage done to Ukraine and can these moves be dealt with?
Disgust, torture, and death… It's better to die than to further endure abuse… This is how five former prisoners of "Isolation," a former Donetsk art hub that the occupation forces turned into a secret torture chamber, speak of their time they did there. They all count on fair punishment for their offenders. However, will those human monsters from Isolation eventually be prosecuted?
Information about the "joint inspection" of Ukrainian positions near Shumy had the effect of a blasting bomb on many Ukrainians. Allowing the enemy into our trenches was not simply about "making concessions for the sake of peace," but about humiliating Ukrainian military and, ultimately, realizing the Kremlin's long-held dream of turning the war into an "internal Ukrainian conflict" in the eyes of international community.
Stanislav Aseiev: Donbas is disappointed and embittered over not becoming part of Russia. But this doesn't add any love to Ukraine
Journalist Stanislav Aseiev spent more than two years in captivity in the occupied Donetsk, most of the time – in a modern-day concentration camp, a special prison called "Izoliatsia". In an interview with UNIAN, he told about the "Russian world" idea and how this "world" looks from the inside.
NGO coordinator Yevhen Vasyliev: Panic, confusion, and chaos reign in occupied Donbas over COVID-19 lockdown
The COVID-19-related restrictions imposed in Donbas are gradually loosening, but crossing the demarcation line remains an issue. What's going on at the crossing points, where and how people caught up on their way had to stay amid lockdown, how occupation administrations are blocking the crossing, and how quarantine affected the number of enemy shellings – that's what program coordinator with the Skhid SOS Foundation Yevhen Vasyliev sat down and spoke about with UNIAN.
The National Guard Rapid Response Brigade recently returned on rotation from an eight-month deployment in Donetsk region's warzone. Their positions, just hundreds of meters away from those of the enemy, were shelled several times a day. Three national guards were killed on the latest deployment. Senior Lieutenant Ivan Murovanyi has told UNIAN about the clashes with subversive groups, life in the dugouts, and the enemy troops singing drunken songs and filming fake reports for the "news".
War amid virus spread: Russia attempting to exploit global quarantine issue to have sanctions lifted
At the time of a global pandemic, wars always tend to subside as adversaries stop shooting, but not this time. Covid-19 is changing the planet, changing our habits, but armed men on the other side of the contact line in Donbas never changed their plans – at least with regard to Ukraine.
Zolote residents in Donbas: We're caught in-between warring sides: "Bang!" – a shell is flying over our heads. We constantly wonder which "bang" will eventually hit us
Early last week, someone purposefully dispersed panic in social networks, claiming that amid intensified shelling in Donbas, the Ukrainian Army retreated from its defense positions, and the town of Zolote "surrendered to separatists". To dispel these rumors, UNIAN visited Zolote and talked with the locals.
A major offensive by Russian-controlled forces on Ukrainian positions on the night of February 18 raises questions, whether Moscow really strives for peace in Donbas as much as it claims in the international arena. But why did the Kremlin need a new escalation in Donbas on the same day that Russia convened the UN Security Council?
Russian propaganda is raging in schools across the temporarily occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Militarization of young minds in these areas is entering a new round amid preparations for the celebration of February 23 (Russia's Homeland Defender Day) and May 9 (WW2 Victory Day). But it's not only marching in formations that local schoolchildren are taught – it's also planting landmines.
Former battalion commander with 72nd Brigade Oleksandr Vdovichenko: My first thought in Avdiyivka was: "I guess I'm going to die here"
Former battalion commander with the 72nd separate mechanized brigade, chief of staff of the 28th Brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Oleksandr Vdovichenko (callsign "Slavian") sat down with UNIAN to tell about his troops forcing militants in Donbas to retreat, repelling the attacks of the "elite" DPR troops, preventing an offensive on Avdiyivka with the help of journalists and photos of tanks, surviving and following his "don't die" order.
Viktoria and Anatoly Kotelenets have told UNIAN their story of love during wartime that strives among the ongoing hostilities. When the two met, "Romeo" was a fighter with the "Right Sector group, while "Juliet" was a Donetsk native.
A secret "DPR" prison opened in the summer of 2014. It hosted those whom pro-Russian forces sought to break down to get guilty pleas. Often, people would tell on themselves, giving up to torture. Despite the fact that the "DPR" doesn't recognize the very existence of this "concentration camp", it is still operating. UNIAN sat down with former inmates to hear their stories.
The abominable life of Kremlin puppets in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions usually ends with an inglorious death, that's regardless of the "status" they managed to achieve in various ways throughout the years of Russian aggression against Ukraine.
The fact that 74 Ukrainians will celebrate the New Year in their family circle, not in the dungeons of "DPR" and "LPR" militants, can perhaps be considered one of the main positive news of this whole year. At the same time, it is very unfortunate that an "all for all" exchange is not yet on the agenda.
Iryna Gerashchenko: International partners would prefer to criticize Ukraine for corruption or anything else, rather than talk about their commitments (PART I)
Vice Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s humanitarian envoy to the Trilateral Contact Group on Donbas settlement Iryna Gerashchenko sat down with UNIAN to talk about why Russia seeks to reformat the Ukrainian side to the Minsk negotiating group, how the talks on hostage release develop, and what precious gift from Roman Sushchenko she keeps at her office, and how a "souvenir" from the ATO zone almost got her arrested at the Boryspil Airport.
Three years ago, on Thursday, July 17, came the day that changed the attitude of Europe toward Russian aggression in Ukraine, from "we are concerned but the conflict has nothing to do with us" to "we are outraged, and the guilty will be punished." Today, in 2017, the punishment already seems inevitable.
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