80-year-old wheelchair-bound Ukrainian rescued after being left within a pension in occupied Donbas for refusing to take Russian citizenship
Dmytro Lubinets, Ukraine’s Ombudsperson, the rescue of an elderly lady who was left without any means of surviving in a Donetsk oblast village now under Russian occupation. The occupation regime were not paying her a pension because she had refused to take Russian citizenship. It is likely that the invading state would have, for the same reason, refused to provide the elderly woman, who cannot move by herself, with healthcare.
Lubinets posted a photo of Pani Antonina on 12 February and explained that he had learned of her plight from her daughter who had tried for some time, without success, to rescue her mother.
Pani Antonina is in poor health and unable to move without a wheelchair, making evacuation extremely difficult. There was, however, no choice as the elderly lady had no relatives or friends nearby who could look after her. Doubtless aware that she had no independent means of income, the Russian invaders had refused to pay her pension as she was unwilling to take Russian citizenship.
Lubinets explains that a representative of the Ombudsperson’s Office, in cooperation with a civic organization which helps to evacuate people, managed to overcome enormous difficulties and ensure that somebody was with her during the gruelling, and potentially dangerous, journey to free Ukrainian territory. The trip, which would have been tiring for a fully abled and much younger woman, began on 24 January and involved crossing from occupied Donetsk oblast into Russia, and then into Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. Fortunately, at every stage, volunteers were found who could ensure that Pani Antonina was provided with a wheelchair, walking frame and assistance. From Poland she arrived in Lviv where she was met by her daughter on 4 February and taken to Kyiv.
The situation is much more tragic for very many Ukrainians, especially the elderly, who have nobody to go to in other parts of Ukraine and feel physically and / or psychologically unable to drop everything and move into the unknown. Russia is making use of the chaos and poverty that it has inflicted on occupied territory and refusing to provide pensions or benefits, as well, very often, as humanitarian aid, unless Ukrainians take Russian citizenship.
On all Ukrainian territory which came under occupation after the full-scale invasion, Russia has added access to healthcare to its arsenal of weapons aimed at forcing Ukrainians to take on Russian citizenship. Initially, this affected those needing life-saving medication, with those dependent on daily doses of insulin reportedly forced from back in September 2023 to get Russian citizenship. As of 1 January 2024, only those who have a Russian ‘mandatory medical insurance policy’ have access to public healthcare, with such policies only issued to those who can produce a Russian passport. .
In occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia oblast, medics, even ambulance staff, are forced to demand that patients have such a mandatory medical insurance policy. According to an ambulance paramedic in occupied Melitopol, they were told that they could decide whether to respond to urgent calls, but that the response would not be paid if the person did not have a policy.
This brutal weaponization of life-saving healthcare is especially cynical considering that Moscow is continuing to flog its lies about near 100% support for ‘joining Russia’ in its fake ‘referendum’ in September 2022.