Withdrawal of troops in Stanitsa Luhanska: betrayal or a way to peace?

Frontline Stanitsa Luhanska regularly suffers from shellings and dreams about peace. Withdrawal of troops hasn’t carried out yet in the village, tired from warfare. Does it real in a closer time? What people think about withdrawal? What will be with the village in a case of withdrawal and is one of the sides of the conflict going to capture ‘grey zone’? Informator.media made a try to find answers on this not so simple questions.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. How troops were being withdrawn in Zolotoe and Petrovskoe

The framework agreement of the tripartite contact group about the withdrawal of means and forces of the conflict from the frontline was signed on September 21 in Minsk. Zolotoe and Stanitsa Luhanska in Luhansk region and Petrovskoe in Donetsk region were chosen as the pilot sites. In case of the successful withdrawal four more sites for the same procedure might be chosen  and further withdrawal might be for all 426 km of the frontline.

According to Minsk agreements, ‘the withdrawal of means and forces is carried out by withdrawal from taking positions in both sides to create withdrawn sites, as usual, not less than 2 kilometers wideness and 2 kilometers deepness’. The result of the realization of such measures is still unknown: it’s supposed that it could reduce the number of shellings and common heating degree of a military conflict.

One of the most important conditions is the full ceasefire on all sites of withdrawal. It’s remarkable that according to the document, in case of violation the silent regime ‘the process of withdrawal of means and forces could be paused and means and forces could be come back on starting positions’.

Withdrawal took place in Zolotoe on October 1. It was held normally calm. The try to withdraw in Petrovskoe was made on October 3, but because of shelling from ‘DPR’ side it wasn’t realized. Conflict sides could still to withdraw machinery in Petrovskoe on October 7.

According to words of governor of Donetsk region Pavel Zhebrivsky, in case of situation worsening Ukrainian side will come back on positions during 10 minutes. The demining of areas in withdrawn zone has begun under OSCE control.

Withdrawal in Stanitsa: we only can dream about calm

The withdrawal was going to be few times and few times it failed because of violation of silent regime. Ukrainian had been waiting at least seven days without shellings and ‘LPR’ few times blamed Ukraine in failure of removal process without stopping provocations and shellings at the same time. One more reason, because of which it’s not so simple to withdraw troops in Stanitsa, become locals. The biggest part of them is afraid that ‘LPR’ troops will take Stanitsa Luhanska, which could become the ‘grey zone’ in case of withdrawal of Ukrainian army. Locals were supported by Luhansk region governor Jury Garbuz, who strongly was against the withdrawal.

‘I still don’t understand how to do it practically, because it’s far enough – one kilometer. If we leave for kilometer we will lose Stanitsa Luhanska. I don’t want to lose any of centimeter of Ukrainian land.

I don’t believe that silence regime will be respected from their side, because there are shellings here every day’, he claimed in the interview to Radio Freedom.

The District Council of Stanitsa Luhanska in the person of Victor Myagky also supported this opinion. He decided to apply to governor with the matter not to withdraw Ukrainian warriors, providing peace, from Stanitsa Luhanska.

‘Representatives of SMM OSCE will carry out the monitoring of the implementation of decisions. They are not responsible for safety of civils, activity of the institutions of district center and in case of a full-scale offensive of the illegal armed groups will go out from the village area, leaving people to fend for themselves’, deputies of Stanitsa Luhanska District Council consider in a such way.  

The way to peace or ‘leaking’ of native land to the enemy?

But don’t think that everyone in Stanitsa supports the withdrawal decision. According to words of the chief editor of ‘Realnaya Gazeta’ (Real Newspaper) Andrei Dikhtyarenko, he got the impression in time of visiting of Stanitsa Luhanska that locals aren’t glad for withdrawal. They simply tired from war and shellings.

‘You say that Stanitsa Luhanska is against the withdrawal. But you can ask me, for example – do I want troops to be withdrawn? I have two children, I want normal life, that we had earlier. I don’t want to sleep and to think that today there will be shellings once more…’, ‘RG’ cites the words of 25-year old Julia, local of Stanitsa Luhanska.

Ex-governor of Luhansk region and now Deputy Minister for the temporarily occupied territories George Tuka called not to panic. He claimed that withdrawal in Stanitsa Luhanska will happen first or last and called locals not to worry.

‘I appeal to Stanitsa inhabitants one more time – there won’t be any betrayal! Don’t worry and succumb to speculative statements!’, Tuka called. Moreover he told how process of withdrawal will be carried out and why there is no need to be afraid of surrender of the territory.

‘This is about removing of one of our vantages to the settlement and from terrorists’ side those block-post, which they mounted on the other bank of the river, which is controlled by the central power’, Tuka told.

Chairman of the Board of Luhansk regional All-Ukrainian public association ‘The Committee of Ukraine voters’ Aleksei Svetikov considers that Stanitsa inhabitants mostly advocated withdrawal, because it will reduce the number of shellings and capturing of the area by ‘LPR’ insurgents will be impossible.

‘Today Stanitsa in under fire, because hot heads from both sides are shooting in each other and hit in civils. There is a need to withdraw, they won’t have an opportunity to shot in each other. There will be less shellings in the village, it’s clear for me. People only care about it. When troops will be withdrawn on 2 kilometers, fire from small arms will be impossible. Machine gun won’t reach such distance, it’s not understood only for absolutely dumb people’, Aleksei Svetikov claimed in the interview to Informator.media.

Aleksei Svetikov considers that there are no reasons to afraid of the capturing of the ‘grey zone’.

‘There are no military dangers. Bridges were exploded, they didn’t exist. The variant of treacherous attack… it’s impossible to transport machinery there’, Svetikov considers.

Also, he claims that people, come from Lisichansk and Severodonetsk, take part in meetings against withdrawal and mass-media are replicating their opinion but the view of tired from war Stanitsa Luhanska inhabitants.

‘Few people, who have the access to mass-media, are fearing of withdrawal and they’re broadcasting from the name of Stanitsa inhabitants. There are some people, who’re crying aloud – ‘Lord forbid! We will be captured at the moment!’. But biggest part of Stanitsa locals doesn’t speak about it’, Svetikov tried to explain the situation.

Svetikov was so outraged, that residents and authorities of Stanitsa opposed the withdrawal, that he even threatened to write a letter to the President Poroshenko with request to dismiss the head of Stanitsa Luhanska District State Administration Jury Zolkin.  

Jury Zolkin: There are different moods in Stanitsa Luhanska

The head of Stanitsa Luhanska District State Administration Jury Zolkin claims that, Stanitsa-people are against withdrawal, because they know what price it managed to protect native land from separatists on August 2014.

‘People, who are for today against withdrawal, say: ‘We are not ready to give any meter of Ukrainian land, because this land is full of blood of our soldiers’, Zolkin told about it in the interview to journalist of Informator.media.

He also said that volunteers and activists of village and district, during all warfare helping to Ukrainian warriors to free meter by meter Stanitsa, don’t wish Ukrainian troops leave the village without protection.

‘A part of people, who are active during 2.5 a year – they helped to our army, when our warriors were deeply in rear, when militaries come to Stanitsa and when they were releasing every piece of this land – they clearly remember those people, who suffered from this conflict, were wounded or dead. Residents have been helping to our guys during two and half a year, providing them with a lot of things, gear, body armor, camouflage net, bags. And now militaries say to them: ‘We’ll retreat and leave our positions’, the head of Stanitsa Luhanska District State Administration Jury Zolkin told.

‘There’s no need to build illusions and say that Stanitsa began to love Ukraine with pure 100%, no. There are different moods. But, in the majority of cases the refrigerator and purse win. The residents of Stanitsa clearly see the difference between occupied territory and ours. Here, in Stanitsa, the pensions and social benefits are paid, medical support is on a decent level, prices on food and medicine are lowest than in ‘LPR’. People compare and make their choice in favor of Ukraine’, Jury Zolkin added.

And Zolkin also told about current situation in Stanitsa and why withdrawal of forces and means can’t be possible at the moment.

‘There must be technically present few conditions for withdrawal to happen. Firstly – it’s silence mode compliance. There were silence last few nights, but nobody knows what will be tonight. Secondly, very technical, territory, where troops are withdrawn, must be controlled by OSCE. For today OSCE can’t control it by its physical patrol’, Jury Zolkin told. He reminded that Ukrainian side has no access to the bridge, that’s why it’s hard to say how safe to move there to civils.

‘If there the exploring of the territory are carried out, mines, stretchings are hung out, so it’s unknown clear how many ‘presents’ this land still hides. Our military sappers and rescue rangers don’t have an access there. There were no detail survey, where people are moving. Nothing from it is carried out. The situation is still already frozen’, Zolkin considers.  

At the end of conversation Jury Zolkin called public organizations and movements not to use matter of withdrawal in Stanitsa Luhanska in their political interests and not to hype really troubled situation there, which he compared with ‘bare nerve’.

Yesterday, on December 11, fighters fired on Stanitsa Luhanska from barrel-attached grenade launchers. This fact was fixed by Luhansk Regional Military-Civilian Administration. The withdrawal still can’t be realized there, because of permanent shellings.

Aleksei Kirillov, for Informator.media

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