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Mariupol – My Meeting With Former UA Soldier (Part 1)

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I arrange to meet Sergei at my hotel near the beach on Mariupol.  He tells me he’s ten minutes away when we speak on the phone.  I know he’ll be late.  Everyone you arrange to meet it Ukraine is always late.  An hour later I’m still waiting, but I get to have two more pints at the hotel bar.  Every cloud eh?   Eventually he arrives.  We shake hands and head off for a walk around the area close to my hotel.

I’d communicated with Sergei a few times via email so he’s already had the heads-up about what I’m wanting to see etc…  His command of the English language is fairly good so we’ve no problems communicating.

He’s a former Ukrainian soldier who now works at the local metal plant Metinvest.  Ironically enough they played a huge part intervening in the uprising here in 2014.  Something he tells me not every employee was happy about.

We discuss the happenings of May 9th 2014.  He tells me ‘Nobody knows how many died here but it was very bad.  Nobody went to work for days afterwards’.  First we visit the site of the Police Station and what remains of it.  One can see by the bullet-riddled holes that this place saw a really intense battle which totally destroyed the building.  It’s currently under armed guard so I discreetly grab some shots and we leave.

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Next stop, the city council building which was destroyed by fire.  Again, this was the site of some serious disruption also.  This building too remains abandoned although no armed guard was visible.  I’m guessing as the trouble here is far from over, there’s little point in attempting to do anything with these buildings just yet.

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The streets around Mariupol are fairly quiet but theres definitely a tension in the air.  I’ll cover the rest of my time in Mariupol over a series of blog posts as theres too much to do in one post.

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Dean O'Brien

July 19, 2017 at 8:17 pm

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Mariupol – Part 1

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I’d never been to Mariupol before but I understood the strategic importance of it to both sides in this conflict.  At present, Mariupol is under the control of government (Kiev) forces.  It was under control of non-government (pro-Russian) forces briefly in 2014 but was captured back shortly afterwards.

Initially I did ask a Ukrainian friend in Kiev to accompany me to Mariupol be he declined fearing that he would be drafted into the army.  Like many of the youth here, he told me ‘I don’t want to fight in this war’.  So I headed down to Mariupol on my own.

Once there, wandering around Mariupol was strange.  A local told me that all the empty buildings in the area ‘had been overtaken by the military’.  Although a heavy military presence was fairly obvious, there were still signs of anti-Ukrainian feeling within the population.

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In the evening most bars were closed by 10pm and night clubs were virtually non-existent with people telling me that they only open at weekends.  In all honestly, hardly surprising with it being so close to the contact line.

I did manage to meet up with a couple of people here who offered to assist me in what I was looking for.   One of those people was Annie.  She works with various NGO’s in Mariupol including the Red Cross and regularly makes trips over the contact line.  She told me first hand how this war is affecting people on both sides.

She explained how Mariupol has seen a huge influx of refugees, or to use the official term, ‘IDP’s’ (internally displaced people).  These people receive little or nothing at all from the Ukrainian government, having to rely on NGO’s and charities to help them.

Annie then arranged for me to interview two NGO’s who currently help those directly affected by the conflict.

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Another meeting I had was with A Pro-UA lawyer Yehor.  He seemed like a nice intelligent guy, and I liked his stance on anti-corruption, but his empathy towards those suffering from the conflict left a lot to be desired and it really took the edge off the meeting for me.

I managed to post a couple of tweets throughout my meeting with him though.

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There was no getting away form the conflict here as the streets were full of adverts for the UA Army and National Guard.  And whilst in Mariupol, I managed to meet with a former Ukrainian soldier who held pro-Russian views.  I’ll be running a separate blog post on that soon.

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Written by Dean O'Brien

July 16, 2017 at 7:18 pm

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Next Stop – Mariupol

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In the next couple of weeks I’ll be heading down to Mariupol in the south east of Ukraine. The area came briefly under control of DPR forces in 2014 before being taken back by Ukrainian forces.  In all honesty, I’m not sure what to expect.  Although it’s outside of the ATO zone, it came under attack a few days ago in the east of the city.  It’s of great strategic  importance to both sides of the conflict due to its key location.

There’s no set agenda.  I’ll take an overnight train, my camera and go and speak to people about the current situation there.  Hopefully I’ll also be able to shoot some video footage, but it’s hard to say until I actually get there.

I’ve added a link to a video below from Victory Day  in Mariupol on May 9th 2014.  Be warned, some of the scenes are fairly graphic but it shows to some extent the brutality of war especially when it directly involves the civilian population.

You’ll see from the comments below the video, just how divided people are with what they witness in the footage.

Written by Dean O'Brien

June 13, 2017 at 2:43 pm

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