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Sputnik Correspondent Visits Special Military Operation Zone: Life in Donbass Getting Back on Track

© SputnikDestroyed residential building in Severodonetsk
Destroyed residential building in Severodonetsk - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.07.2022
As Russia's special operation in Ukraine continues, life is returning to normal in areas under the control of Russian and Donbass forces. Sputnik correspondent Ceyda Karan shares her impression of the situation from the scene.
I went to Donbass to see the results on the ground of the Special Military Operation in the region, something that is in many ways considered to be a turning point for Russia.
The military operation brought the Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics, which broke away from the central government after the 2014 coup in Kiev, the constitutional borders they had been waiting eight years for.
In 2018, I had the chance to visit the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, but at the time they only controlled parts of their constitutional borders. This time I am observing the development of events in Donbass under different circumstances, against the backdrop of Russia's special military operation.
During my trip here in 2018, Russian-speakers, who make up at least 30% of Ukraine's total population, were openly saying that they were very much looking forward to the Russian Army's arrival. And now their expectations have come true, but at the high cost of fighting back against the ultranationalist and neo-Nazi elements that have taken root in the Ukrainian military in the eight years since the US-backed Maidan uprising.
We came to Donbass together with a large group of international journalists as part of a press tour organized by Russia's Ministry of Defense. It should be emphasized that Russia and the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics invited Western journalists to cover the situation on the ground against the backdrop of strict censorship and the sanctions regime on the part of the West. Representatives of newspapers such as Die Zeit and Le Figaro were granted permission to take part in the press tour, while the activities of Russian media are banned in European countries like Germany, France, and the Netherlands.

‘Ukraine is Dead to Me’

The efforts of the Donetsk and Lugansk People' Militias to normalize life in the territories they have taken control of deserve special mention. At the same time, the Donbass republics’ militias continue joint offensives together with the Russian Army in the region.
Three weeks ago, Russian forces and the LPR People's Militia took over Severodonetsk. We reached this small town under heightened security measures. The scale of the damage is enormous: destroyed buildings, stores, gardens, and bridges that were on the "line of defense" set up by Ukrainian nationalists, who deployed British NLAWs, American Javelins, and Italian Milan systems in residential neighborhoods.
© SputnikDestroyed residential building in Severodonetsk
Destroyed residential building in Severodonetsk - Sputnik International, 1920, 15.07.2022
Destroyed residential building in Severodonetsk
Residents of Severodonetsk told us about the military tactics of Ukrainian ultranationalists.
For example, according to a woman from the city, “the nationalists consider themselves gods, and treat the Russian population like trash.” “After this tragedy, Ukraine no longer exists for me. It's dead to me. There are only Russians," she said.
The woman noted that since the arrival of the Russian military and the LPR People's Militia, life has gradually started to improve: "It's safe everywhere now. Of course, there are some problems, but they help us in every way they can. There is no electricity, but they come to us with generators and provide us with electricity. They give us food and water. Mobile connection is working. Medical services are good, clinics and hospitals are open. Medicine is free, you don't have to pay for anything.”

NATO Museum in Lisichansk

Things are better in Lisichansk, which is about 10 kilometers from Severodonetsk. The city was taken under control a week ago by allied Russian and LPR troops. This is largely because the Ukrainian nationalists, after heavy fighting in Severodonetsk, realized that they could not hold out here and left Lisichansk. Allied forces continue to hand out humanitarian aid to the local population and carry out demining operations.
One of the central streets in Lisichansk hosts a large collection of trophy military equipment and weapons from the Ukrainian Armed Forces and nationalist battalions. It is actually an open-air "NATO weapons museum." There are tanks, armored personnel carriers, and rocket launchers that Ukraine received from NATO. All are in good condition and will be used by the armies of Russia and its allies, the Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Armed Forces continue massive strikes against Donbass with missile systems purchased from NATO member states. At night, you can hear the artillery fire especially well.

New Hospital in Lugansk

Living conditions in the city of Lugansk are also very difficult, but investment in the city's infrastructure is gradually gaining momentum. Construction of a hospital is proceeding apace; its foundations were laid just three weeks ago. The project, developed during the coronavirus pandemic and being implemented with the help of Russia, is the region's first 200-bed multi-functional hospital. Leonid Pasechnik, head of the Lugansk People’s Republic, emphasized during his visit to the construction site that an infectious disease hospital had never been built in their republic before, and noted that the facility would be completed and put into operation shortly.

Mariupol Returns to Normal Life

The process of restoring normal life in Severodonetsk and Lisichansk has just begun. In Mariupol, on the other hand, work is already in full swing to restore the city's infrastructure. New buildings are being erected in place of those that were destroyed. Apartments in five-story apartment buildings will be provided free of charge to those whose houses were destroyed. The project was launched in June and is being implemented by the Russian Defense Ministry.
Oleg Pechenkin, responsible for the construction of new facilities in Mariupol, said that the project will provide a total of 1,011 residential houses for more than nine thousand people.
Moreover, there are 12 other similar commercial and non-commercial projects for the construction of social facilities. They are planned to be implemented in October-November this year.
The Russian Defense Ministry is also carrying out construction of the first 60-bed multifunctional hospital in Mariupol. Construction work is scheduled to be completed in September-October. The project will provide jobs for 125 people from the local population and Russia.

Demining Work

The most dangerous part of the Russian-supported normalization efforts in the DPR and LPR is the detection and neutralization of mines planted by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Every day, specialists defuse about 400 mines. We had an opportunity to observe the work of a demining unit using a Uranium-6 robot. The explosion that occurred while the mine-defusing machine was working literally knocked us off our feet.
Alexander Gromov, commander of the International Mine Action Center's demining unit, said the work will continue until the mines are completely neutralized.
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