Referendum under fire – KP.RU

From the outside, you can’t say that now these people are creating real history with their own hands with a small checkmark in a cage.

From the outside, you can’t say that now these people are creating real history with their own hands with a small checkmark in a cage.

A photo: Alexander KOTS

– Half an hour, two five-story buildings were laid down, – a soldier reports casually at the entrance checkpoint to Lisichansk.

Artillery roars nearby. Both “incoming” and “outgoing” are heard. Courageous Ukrainian troops after their Kharkiv “offensive” are trying to build on their success and penetrate the defense of the Luhansk People’s Republic. With the start of the referendum, these attempts only intensified – Kyiv really wants to show another win against the background of the will of its former citizens, which is not very pleasant for Zelensky.

Although, why “former”? At one of the mobile polling stations, people with blue Ukrainian passports stand in line at the ballot box. They did not have time to receive Russian documents, not before, in the ruined city it was necessary to prepare for the winter. However, after the announcement of the results of the referendum, in case of a positive choice of the residents of the LPR, everyone will automatically receive Russian citizenship. How hard it was in Crimea eight years ago.

I remember Lisichansk immediately after release. A ghost town with almost no inhabitants to be seen. For four months they lived in a real hell, buried their neighbors right in the yards, cooked on fires in rare moments of respite. Today there is a feeling that life has been breathed into Lisichansk. Cars appeared on the streets, people, despite the nearby cannonade, walk along the streets, and a small queue does not dissolve at the minibus with the ballot box. More and more voters come here.

“You have no idea how glad we are that this happiness has finally fallen to us,” admits a woman trading nearby in the market and coming up to vote.

– I’m always for Russia, – says another resident of Lisichansk. – For which they spread rot: “Do not speak Russian …”

The process already worked out over the previous two days: passport, signature, ballot, basket. From the outside, you can’t even say that now these people are creating real history with their own hands with a small checkmark in a cage. Almost without being distracted by the sounds of war.

At the minibus with the ballot box, the small queue does not dissolve.  More and more voters come here

At the minibus with the ballot box, the small queue does not dissolve. More and more voters come here

A photo: Alexander KOTS

Are you already not paying attention? I ask the man who voted.

– Used to, – as befits a man, he shrugs his shoulders.

– But the heart is no, no, yes, it beats, – his companion does not hide.

Approach observers from Russia. They watch the process, are interested in the mood of the locals, do it tactfully and unobtrusively. Lisichantsy, in turn, ask their pressing questions.

– Basically they are connected with documents, arrangement of personal space. There are no windows in the houses, no light, no gas. For Rubizhny, this issue has already been resolved. We see that gas was supplied there, and heat, and light. In Lisichansk, the picture is a little worse. But the authorities are also working on this in order to glaze houses before winter, cover roofs somewhere, so that people have elementary living conditions for life, – State Duma deputy Zurab Makiyev explains to me.

– How will Russia change with the acquisition of these new territories?

– This is our big family, which will unite, the big Russian world – into one whole. Our main task is to ensure peace.

From Lisichansk, along the burnt buildings and ruined suburbs, I drive to Rubizhne. The road leads to the Seversky Donets, the bridge over which was destroyed by battles. Communication between cities – by pontoon ferry. Burnt tanks along the roadside, the skeletons of infantry fighting vehicles, the chemical giant Zarya, which has almost no whole workshop left. Everything here speaks of how hard it was for the liberation of this city. Traces of battles are literally at every turn. But gradually Rubizhne is being put in order, the spontaneous cemeteries were reburied at a new memorial, but the sounds of artillery explosions and polling stations equipped in the basements speak for themselves about the proximity of the front.

Rubizhne is gradually being put in order

Rubizhne is gradually being put in order

A photo: Alexander KOTS

Igor’s way to Russia was very long. The wife with her girlfriends and son rested in the Dnepropetrovsk region. I went to pick her up – and then it began.

– Began persecution, military registration and enlistment offices. In order to stay there, they were given a house, but without any conditions, there was not even a toilet on the street. Water somewhere near the neighbors. But at the same time, you have to go to the military enlistment office, where you are immediately taken away. We allegedly help the family, and you go serve. And here, in Rubizhne, my mother, grandmother, should I go shoot them? Are you out of your mind? And looping from the military registration and enlistment office began.

– Did you leave without incident?

– There were a lot of adventures. People almost die there. They stand – they are not released. They are waiting for some kind of queue. We are lucky that my wife is pregnant. So they released it. We had a deadline for departure, we waited a long time for this, prepared for a long time, my wife was in the hospital with complications. We drove along the route Dnepr-Zaporozhye-Dzhankoy-Novorossiysk … We settled in Tyumen. And people live there for months, grandmothers, men, women, children. They are generally not allowed anywhere. They accumulate there like a human shield.

Polling stations equipped in basements

Polling stations equipped in basements

A photo: Alexander KOTS

Igor came from Tyumen to visit relatives, pick up the remaining things, and at the same time vote. In Russia, he has so far received only refugee status. But I am sure that after the referendum, citizenship will be granted automatically.

– Ba, old acquaintances, – a cheerful lady meets me on the street.

In 2014, a deputy of the People’s Council of the LPR, Nelly Zadiraka, declared the independence of the Luhansk People’s Republic following the results of that referendum. In its Rubizhne, then 98 percent of the inhabitants voted for sovereignty!

– For all eight years, people from here called me: we haven’t forgotten, we remember, we’re for it, we want to be with you, come. Even if we are bombed, we will be waiting for you. And so they waited for this referendum. Feelings are indescribable. I thought: maybe people were scared, maybe these military events, maybe they were somehow reforged. Nothing like this. Frontiers remained frontiers. I am proud of my countrymen.

– Cannonade is constantly heard. Are people not scared?

– No, because Russia is behind us. When Russia is nearby, it’s not scary, it’s reliable. Nobody else will help. The frontiers know, ask, they will tell you who bombed them, who destroyed these buildings. They remember everything very well. Now we are returning home, we have to restore this city. We understand that it will be difficult for us alone without Russia. And with Russia, we will definitely win. And our city will definitely become the second Donetsk in terms of the number of roses, the number of parks, greenery, and beauty. I think that we will restore it all. The frontiers deserve it.

Now these spontaneous cemeteries have already been removed from the yards

Now these spontaneous cemeteries have already been removed from the yards

A photo: Alexander KOTS

And I can confirm this. Because he lived in this city for three weeks immediately after the liberation, when the Ukrainian troops, according to tradition, brought down all their artillery power on the abandoned city. I remember little Tanya at the grave of her father in the center of the city behind the bus stop – with a small stick she wanted to dig him out. I remember the crosses in the yards of high-rise buildings, which did not greatly excite the world community, unlike Bucha and Izyum. I remember kitchens on the streets, stuttering children and their aging parents. They really deserve…

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