Kiev’s claims on the allegedly achieved compromise were called “empty rhetoric” in Donetsk. No official proposals or requests from the Ukrainian authorities have been received for the last eight months. The last exchange took place in December last year. And then Kiev released Ukrainians convicted for political reasons in exchange for prisoners of war.
“I only have this rabbit and that one left from my old life. – Did you keep it with you? – Yes, it was in prison with me.”
Her hometown Kharkov is not so far away, just 300 kilometres. But Elena Petruk cannot go home, even taking into account the fact that she was pardoned during the exchange. She cannot live in that system and with those people who for no reason shot her foot during the interrogation.
“Look, I have two gunshot wounds here, and this injury appeared after they hit me with an aluminium bat, they did not treat it, my vein was sticking out. I used to push it inside with my finger and bandaged it with some cloth, and that’s all,” she says.
Immediately after being released from captivity, people were taken to the hospital, many people’s health has been severely affected, and then we moved to this dormitory. A shared bathroom, a kitchen and this small room – a standard dormitory, but it looks like paradise after being in prison.
The minimum allowance is 2800 rubles, humanitarian aid once a month, and, of course, new documents. After all, Ukrainian passports of many released persons remained on the other side of the Contact line.
“We have provided almost all of them with passports of the Donetsk People’s Republic, as the Ukrainian side didn’t observe all the agreements. So, they, unfortunately, haven’t returned documents to many people,” said Daria Morozova, the Human Rights Ombudsman in the DPR.
“You know, it feels like more freedom even as compared to the time before all these events in Mariupol, it feels more like Motherland here”.
Security Services of Ukraine had been chasing this thin guy around Mariupol for two years. In the end, they caught him and sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment. The half of the charges were invented, and Denis included this to his appeal, but the sentence remained in effect and the captive was released as a result of the exchange. In Donetsk, the guy kept his wits, he bought an old car in instalments and started to work as a taxi driver.
“I didn’t expect anyone to help me. Also, I was given a certificate that allows me to travel by trolleybus and tram free-of-charge, which helped me a lot,” a citizen of Donetsk Denis Romanenko recalls.
Sergei Babych had spent 2 years and 8 months in captivity. During this time he was sending so many complaints that he was exchanged. And he continues to litigate even being under the ground. Ukraine accuses him of supporting terrorists, although the DPR and the LPR have not been de-jure recognized as terroristic organizations.
“The charge says “belonging to a terrorist organization” but judging by official responses, there are no such organizations, and no one knows about them in Ukraine,” says miner Sergei Babych.
Thanks to the ordinary miner, 9 criminal cases have been opened in Ukraine against judges, SSU officers and investigators, who trumped up the charge. Sergey has not been sentenced until now, the trial continues, even though without him. He works as a coal mine electrician which is according to his qualifications.
“Now I’m getting my teeth replaced and treated free-of-charge. So, there is no bad attitude because I’m a prisoner of war,” he said.
Of course, it is hard to start a new life. However, it seems there is something they don’t talk about in front of the camera, something that gives them the strength to dream, to make plans and simply to live.