There have been noticeably more people in Donetsk in the past few weeks. All supermarket checkouts are now open, as it was before the summer of 2014. And these newcomers are definitely not IDPs from small towns of the "DNR" or the ones that were "evacuated" from the war zone.
Although, there are enough of those as well. They were brought by bus from Mariupol, Volnovakha and Marinka in the spring. They came from Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Kostiantynivka in the summer to live with their relatives here, if their house was destroyed and there was nowhere else to go.
But lately, those who stand out due to their foreign dialect, poor knowledge of the city and some kind of non-local arrogance have appeared there.
Actually, a lot of "brothers and sisters" from the russian federation came here back in 2014. There were more and more of them every year. Russians bought real estate here and took jobs in various fields. Apparently, living in a city that is being shelled turned out to be much more comfortable than in some quiet russian small town.
In September of this year, Donetsk was replenished with "Eastern guest workers", who are engaged in the repair of residential buildings, schools and kindergartens. They are usually quiet and try not to go out without a reason - either they are afraid, or have a lot of work.
Another batch of russian "specialists" was brought to Donetsk closer to the beginning of the heating season. They help municipal services to eliminate accidents at district heating plants and deliver technical water for the needs of boiler houses and residents of high-rise buildings, who have been left without running water supply for more than six months.
In November, a large number of soldiers appeared on the streets, moving in small groups of 3-5 people. There are many Caucasians and, judging by the characteristic eye shape, Buryats and Yakuts among them.
If you can somehow put up with civilian newcomers, those who wear military uniform are frankly annoying. Because they think they are above the law. They enter shops, pharmacies, banks, cafes, restaurants and other social facilities with machine guns, although there are signs on all doors stating that entry with weapons is prohibited. They do not respond to the comments of the security staff. They just pass by without even acknowledging them. The security guards are probably afraid to argue with armed people, so they don’t repeat their "request" and, of course, don’t run after them to throw the violators out. These armed "defenders" can get rude after the timid remarks of civilians in line, pointing out that they shed blood for them, and these "ungrateful people" do not appreciate it.
Therefore, what intermediate conclusions can be drawn about these "defenders", besides the fact that they feel like masters in the occupied territory?
Of course, without generalizing. But, as they say: that's what the eyes, ears and head are for, to evaluate what you see.
I'll start with observations from pharmacies. Most often, people with machine guns buy medicines, which, at first glance, are quite innocent and do not attract much attention of an ordinary person from the queue. But if, for example, they bought cough and cold medicines, then there are no questions: the soldiers fell ill and want to get some treatment. However, in fact, the set of purchased medicines clearly indicates that they are intended to produce a different effect.
As you know, there are so-called "pharmaceutical drugs" that are used to get "high". Although Donetsk pharmacies have long ceased to sell codeine-containing medicines (they cannot be bought even with a doctor’s prescription), there are many other over-the-counter ones, which are suitable for temporary escape from reality. Some of them are ready-made psychoactive substances, others are used as precursors (raw materials) for the manufacture of drugs. These are antidepressants, sleeping pills, barbiturates, antihistamines and antivirals, muscle relaxants, nootropics, ophthalmic drops for pupil dilation and cough medicines.
For the experienced users, the combination of these medications can be a temporary replacement for the usual psychotropics. Because their usage triggers clinical effects which are similar to opiates in many ways. And the Donbas "defenders" are clearly experts in that...
In supermarkets, they most often buy vodka with carbonated drinks. For example, two bottles of vodka and four sodas. They prefer ready-made supermarket dishes for snacks and pay mainly with bank cards, because they have a hard time with getting cash. After all, their "salary" is transferred to the russian banks’ accounts and it is a problem to withdraw money from the Donetsk ATMs. However, the situation improved slightly after the Promsvyazbank began operating in the "DNR" in June.
At the grand opening of the first branch, "head" of the "republic" Pushilin assured the people of Donetsk that the "DNR" citizens would be able to receive the full range of banking services, including obtaining loans. "The arrival of a Russian bank on our territory has finally destroyed the economic blockade that the enemy created around us", - he pompously proclaimed in an interview with local media. "The beginning of the bank’s operation in the DNR is of great importance for the establishment of peaceful life. Access to a variety of banking services will improve the quality of life of every citizen of our republic. Everyone is grateful to those who help us from our big Motherland".
The appearance of the russian bank really pleased many residents of the "republic". Because, along with obtaining a russian passport, the newly minted "citizens of the russian federation" opened bank accounts in russian banks to receive social benefits. Those who work remotely for various russian companies and who traveled for seasonal work to the Crimea or the Krasnodar Krai and chose not to keep cash in rented housing also acquired russian bank cards. And, of course, those russians who were brought to Donetsk to provide assistance to the "long-suffering fraternal people".
Until June 2022, there were no russian banks and ATMs in the occupied territory, so people had to look for intermediaries to get their money through them. At the same time, it was necessary to pay a considerably large commission ranging from 3 to 10%. Some people paid it, others traveled to the russian territory to withdraw cash (because it sometimes was a cheaper option).
However, the appearance of a russian bank in the "DNR" did not eliminate the problem, but only reduced the commission rate for cash transactions. Promsvyazbank’s clients noticed that money transfers, including those between accounts within the bank, were charged a commission of 1% of the amount, but not less than 150 rubles. That is, if someone needs to withdraw, for example, 50 rubles, 200 rubles will be debited from their account. Naturally, people were not happy about that.
In addition, customers of russian banks are also annoyed by the fact that Promsvyazbank’s ATMs are often empty. As soon as they are loaded with cash, a huge queue immediately lines up, so it’s not guaranteed that there will be enough cash for everyone.
The Donetsk residents have not yet received the promised "variety of banking services". It is almost impossible to get a loan from Promsvyazbank, even for people who have a permanent job and a stable income.
It turns out that the "improvement of the quality of life of every citizen of the republic" promised by Pushilin with the appearance of a russian bank turned out to be yet another lie for the people. And, in fact, it caused long queues in stores, pharmacies and banks.
It seems that this bank was actually brought by the russian federation to the Donbas not for the local residents, but to serve the new russian "owners" of the region.
Lusia Molchanova, Donetsk, for OstroV