Students still under attack from Kremlin-backed militants
Instead of worrying about finals and last assignments, students in Donbas are having to contend with very real threats from the Kremlin-backed militants calling themselves the Donetsk or Luhansk People’s Republics.
The Education Ministry announced on June 4 that in view of the situation in the region and the anti-terrorism operation underway, it was advising institutes and universities in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions to suspend lectures. According to students, the recommendation has thus far been ignored. For a large number of students this means having to pass through checkpoints manned by armed militants known to be holding a large number of people, including at very least one student hostage.
One second-year-student, Veronica writes: “My nerves are giving out. Everyday somebody rings and recounts horror stories. A car’s been stolen, or somebody’s been robbed or knifed. Militants with rifles turn up at the university. The city’s empty, and people keep saying that you need to get out as soon as possible. That there could be a total purge any day. You try not to believe the rumours, hope for the best. Yet even the most steadfast are giving in.”
On May 26, she says, armed men with machine guns turned up at the Donetsk Technical University, disrupted the lecture and called on students to join the DPR militants. The building was closed, but by the next day the story had been muffled and the university continued working. She adds that the university management deny that the incident took place.
On May 29 DPR militants appeared at the Donetsk National University hostel and demanded lists of students. They said they’d be back.
Not all have ignored the Education Ministry – the medical school, for example, has closed. Veronica’s institute however has simply brought the exams forward by two weeks, to July 5.
She mentions also the chief doctor of one clinic who has just discharged anybody he could, and moved all others to the basement.
Roman Kolodiy, a youth activist from the Foundation for Regional Initiatives is now in hospital after being attacked on May 28 by armed men in camouflage gear. He received knife wounds to the stomach and legs, concussion and bruising. His colleagues say that donations are needed to help pay for his treatment.
Activists and students are easy targets, however anybody can be at risk, especially if they are known to hold pro-Ukrainian views, or dare to speak Ukrainian in public places. Pro-Ukrainian rallies ceased with the arrival of armed militants. It became quite simply dangerous.
As reported, the DPR have stated in their ‘constitution’ that they recognize only the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate. Believers of other faiths have already experienced harassment. So too have journalists not working for Russian Kremlin-loyal media.