The topic of the blockade of the occupied Donbass has not left anyone indifferent: Ukrainians either completely support this idea, or are its ardent opponents. While couch-based experts argue in social networks, the participants of the blockade "do their own part" and the "soothing" decision of the NSDC to impose a ban on cargo transportation from the occupied territory does not stop their activities. The demands of the activists are expanding and they are planning the creation of a base camp Bakhmut Sich in the near future.
"Wow, it has really expanded so much!", - two middle-aged women with bags and carts do not hide their surprise while passing the blockade site in Bakhmut. "Girls, come here! Let us cook for the guys together", - someone calls from the tents. The women just cackled but passed by without answering the joker.
The tent camp of the participants of the blockade really looks impressive. It stands on a small hill, to which wooden staircase leads, that was "built by Monya and Malyj in February 2017". You can see a large banner which says: "The first requirement of the blockade is the exchange of prisoners".
The camp itself is surrounded by old automobile tires and wooden barricades, entangled with barbed wire. There are several large tents, metal stoves, near which people bask from time to time, an improvised kitchen, a sink, a shower, as well as lots of flags - state yellow-blue and "voluntary" red-black, Right sector’s ones and some flags of the battalion Donbass. There is also a place for worship. The situation itself reminds of EuroMaidan 2014. The participants of the blockade also confirm that.
Activists track the transportation of goods along the railway line, which is clearly visible from the tent camp. The train passes the redoubt without any problems. Its few passengers look on the tent camp through dirty wagon windows. In the evening, the locomotive, blocked by activists, begins to puff. "Yes, it works. The railway workers said that if it does not work from time to time, it will freeze and turn into garbage, that is why it is turned on every day", - the participants of the blockade explain.
"We have a railway task. Our Kurdyumivka is in that direction, and farther is an occupied territory, no transportation on the railway goes from the occupied territory. There are only wagons with clay from Kurdyumivka. This is our territory, our quarry. This is allowed, everything else is not. We are warned that a train comes, we check the documents on cargo, control it from the DVR. They do not deceive us, because they know we will block the railroad completely if that happens. Everything goes well so far", - the head of “Zaporizhia” redoubt with the call sign Sokil explains. He has been there since early March.
He tells little about himself - fought in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, now took a vacation and will soon return to work. According to him, people here change shifts constantly: someone comes for a week, someone for two days, and someone for a month. "We have a “military” order here. In the morning we listen to the anthem, then we plan our working schedule, go on patrol. Inside the redoubt people make sure that there are no provocations". In March, there were no provocations: except that with the arrival of a group of journalists "some drunk, inadequate people" appeared. "We get more and more help from the locals, they say: "We are just like you, everything is fine". There are a lot of volunteers, local people help with washing and laundry. We have more food than we need, so we send some products to the frontline", - my interlocutor tells.
While we are talking to Sokil, a man with two metal water cans is climbing the stairs. A smiling woman steps out from the nearest tent to meet him, she takes away the cans, gives him a cauldron in return. "Who wants some fresh hot soup? Come inside the tent!", - she cries. A few young guys in camouflage respond to her appeal. I follow them. After a cold wind the tent seems to be hot. On both sides there are plank beds, there is a table in the middle. Women pour the soup into bowls. Camera’s flash attracts attention. "Why did not you warn that you will take pictures, we would have prepared for that", - the women were embarrassed, but did not stop pouring the soup.
I step out of the tent and face the very local people, about whose support Sokil told us. Activists from the organization Ukrainian Bakhmut came to the redoubt, where they promised to voice plans and further actions of the "Staff of the blockade of trade with the invaders". "We came to support the guys... Sometimes we even scold them for the mess and the garbage, because we think of them as of our relatives, knowing the identities of these guys who fought here, who were wounded, were in hospital here", - Bakhmut resident Svitlana says. "We often find out that people not from our organization help them as well. The guys say: "A woman came to bring us some food". And I do not even know her. The weather was bad, and a woman came from Soledar by bus, brought potatoes and braised it with meat. It takes an hour to get here. And you need to catch the bus back!", - another Bakhmut resident echoes her words. The activists say that all-Ukrainian media prefer just not to notice how much the cities that survived the occupation and became front-line now have changed in recent years. "We were upset at first, that they say that the front-line cities are "potatriot" and "separatist", but now we do not pay attention – we do our job and that is all", - Svitlana says.
The activists go to the tents, and my eye meets almost the oldest participant of the blockade at "Zaporizhia" redoubt. A gray-haired strong man does not hold journalists in high regard, but agrees to talk. "The third hundred of EuroMaidan self-defence from the city of Stryi", - he presents himself. "I am here because I am here. We need to pull the guys out of captivity", - he says. "Do you believe that the blockade will help to release prisoners?" - I doubt it. He is aggrieved: "These guys (nods toward the tents - ed.) can do it all. Poroh also started to support the blockade when the redoubt was dispersed (on Kryvyi Torets – ed). Sometimes they say that we will be shot down here, and I say – they will not shot down everyone. They shot at EuroMaidan too. There are four people in Heavenly Hundred from my Stryi".
Another tent is set across the road from the tent camp near the barrier. A banner "No to the financing of terrorists! Trade with the occupiers - a business on the blood!" is stretched near it. The driver of the passing by white GAZelle greets the participants of the blockade, who are warming themselves near the barrel with burning firewood. He distracted and the car sputtered out, not reaching to the railway lines a bit. Guys in camouflage are ready to go to the aid, but GAZelle quickly starts and moves on. Svitlana from "Ukrainian Bakhmut" introduces me near the tent to another participant in the trade blockade - Ruslan. "My call sign is "Yashka". It is written with a smiley in the end", - he clarifies. Despite his cheerful call sign, this young bearded guy, according to his story, managed to visit the Ilovaisk and Debaltseve traps, as well as the militants' captivity. Yashka himself does not believe that the issue of the release of prisoners can be resolved thanks to the redoubts: "Thanks to the redoubts – no. Zakharchenko said that we are not a hindrance to them in this matter". He himself has been involved in the trade blockade since the very first days. When asked whether somebody paid for this, he laughs: "No. Only one person told about money (after the dispersal of the redoubt on Kryvy Torets – ed.) in the police. It was Vania with the call sign "Kid". We cannot understand why he said so. Maybe, it was because of the fear". He admits that there are not so many ATO participants at the redoubts, as it looks: "About 10 people out of 50 in Torets were ATO participants". He explains his participation in the blockade of trade with the occupiers this way: "I am dissatisfied with the government and its actions. How come – the Ukrainian government asks for sanctions against Russia to be blocked and then helps Russia to avoid all these sanctions? They say: "Why does Europe help us so badly?". It does not have to help us. It will soon say that the people are guilty of having such power. We must fight and we fight".
I will hear more than once about the discontent with the actions of the president, the government and the Verkhovna Rada. This topic was a main message in the conversation almost with all the participants of the blockade. "All-pervading hatred of the government by people is in all areas of public life… Now we are on the verge of an explosion. And if this will not be done, if the patriots will not lead or at least not affect it, this will be done by Putin. And this is much more terrible than a new military aggression… It does not mean that it (the government – ed.) is needed to be removed, but it is necessary to force it to work in the interests of the people. That right beginning that was made here, which showed how to fight this government, it will expand all the regions with a normal organization", - the representative of "Kievan Rus" battalion stated at a conference that "the Headquarters of the blockade of trade with the occupiers" held at the redoubt on Saturday. "He says the right things", - other activists supported the speaker's words.
They gathered at "Zaporizhia" redoubt in Bakhmut to discuss their further plans. They decided to continue their actions on the blockade, despite the adoption of a formal decision by the National Security Council to stop all cargo traffic from the occupied territory. "The demands have been fulfilled in part… The issue of the release of prisoners has not been resolved. There are factories, plants and steamships in the decision of the NSDC, but there was nothing about the guys, and this is our main demand", - activists stated.
They are going to organize mobile groups that will monitor and block the "smuggling routes" in the ATO zone within days. Moreover, it was decided to expand the list of demands: activists wait now from the government the decisions on the confiscation of enterprises that "belong to Russians and bring profits to the aggressor state", as well as the reprivatization of enterprises of the fuel and energy complex.
Furthermore, it is also referred to the creation of a base camp in Bakhmut and the possible renaming of the "Headquarters of the blockade of trade with the occupiers" in connection with the new demands. And it is far from certain that these demands will be the last.
Halyna Pokrovska, Bakhmut