All of these statements are based on my extensive time reporting in Donbass, DPR and LPR. All of these statements are substantiated by my extensive video reportage from Donbass, which can be found on my YouTube channel.
- During the blockade of 2014, life in Lugansk was just about as bad as it could get – under constant Ukrainian shelling, daily fatalities, casualties, no electricity, water, phone signal, little food. I was there, it was truly grim.
- But you may not know how just how bad it was during 2014 – there were no other western journalists during the blockade of summer 2014. One of my activities was just walking round the city, filming the destruction –It seemed like the Ukrainians were targeting infrastructure with shelling, across the LPR, water and electricity knocked out around Lugansk, this factory, in Pervomaisk, practically the only building hit in the area, and hit several times –
- I was in Lugansk before the war. It’s a beautiful city, and the mood there was, in the immediate aftermath of Maidan, pro-Russian, as it is today –
- Lugansk is now back to looking much as it did – the wreckage of 2014 has been much, if true to say not all, restored. From a time of not one shop open in the city, it’s back to now almost every shop, and establishment, working.
- Lugansk head Igor Plotnitsky is neither as popular as DPR head Zakarchenko, or as unpopular as you may have been led to believe. In Lugansk, you can equally find those against, who will cite incidents such as the murders of several prominent LPR Commanders, and those for, who will cite the impressive scale of reconstruction in Lugansk – including the city’s beloved circus –
- But there’s a lot still to do – School 7, completely gutted by Ukrainian shelling of 2014, with no sign of repair in sight (full English subs on this )-
- Other towns and cities of the LPR had it as bad, if not worse during 2014 – the ‘frontier town’ of Pervomaisk, strafed by constant Ukrainian shelling, a death toll there estimated at 1000 from a 40,000 population.
Here was my return to Pervomaisk, in February 2015 –Here, Ukrainian shelling hits a canteen in Pervomaisk, Lugansk region, February 2015And the in places almost surreal level of damage to the city –
- There’s a lot of painful memories from war in the LPR, here, Lugansk – (Eng subs)
- It’s calmer than Donetsk now, in my last visits to Lugansk, I didn’t hear shelling once, whereas in Donetsk, even centre, it’s ever audible.
- Did you know, Lugansk was the first Donbass city in which all administrative buildings were taken into the hands of anti-Kiev activists. The mood back then was optimistic, April 28th, 2014 –
No one expected that just over a month later, Ukraine would be launching lethal air strikes on the city. This, from June 2nd, 2014.
- There’s still a fairly strictly enforced curfew in Lugansk, unlike the more flexible one in Donetsk. All establishments close at 10pm, the streets are deserted by night.
- The news from Donbass can be a bit Donetsk-centric. I was surprised on going to base myself in Lugansk for a while in December just how much actually goes on there – daily evens, meetings, seminars. It gets less coverage, but Lugansk is abuzz with activity.*Key extracts from this December 2015 seminar on reconstruction here –As a result of shelling in Lugansk, 2014, 132 object of socio-cultural facilities were damaged. More than 400 buildings and 2780 private houses sustained damage from shelling. From he beginning of 2015 during the first phase of restoration work restored 83 social facilities, and repaired 27 houses. The state program to restore the “2000” in Lugansk reached 743, including 93 high-rise buildings.
- The Donbass unit of the Night Wolves is based in Lugansk. They run an auto museum from their base…
And put on the city’s main New Year festivities. All free, a friendly environment –
- The cultural scene in Lugansk is pretty active – museums work, there are artists’ studios –
- There’s reconstruction taking place all over the city of Lugansk, here, the city’s museum of culture and history being restored, ready for opening on City Day in September – (Eng subs)
- Not only Lugansk – a couple of stills from drone footage I took of the once wrecked village of Novosvetlovka, by Lugansk, with reconstruction going on there – True to say, yet to see any sign of reconstruction in Pervomaisk, this drone footage from there from December of 2015 –
- There’s a slightly annoying situation with telecommunication. A dispute with one of the most reliable providers in Donbass, Life, means that provider doesn’t operate in the city of Lugansk itself, but does in the rest of the LPR. There are alternatives available, yet it’s a bit irritating!
- Universities are operating, and there are plenty of students. A look at the medical university, from my day there in December – (Eng subs)-
And a brief look a Master Class I gave there for young journalists in December –
- Actually, there are all sorts of active youth organisations in Lugansk – this group, the ‘Young Republic’ recently organised a quite spectacular get-together to mark the anniversary of ‘Minsk-2’ –
- The mood amongs people is overall pretty optimistic – English subs on both of these recent videos –
- Whatever you’ve heard the UN as saying about LPR, their representative Stephen O’Brien was there in actually there in November of 2015, expressing only positive sentiments –
- Electricity is fine throughout, but there are still issues with water. Most of the water supply comes from Ukrainian territory, and there are ‘issues’ there. Where I stayed last time, just out of the centre, there was water in the morning, and evening.
- There are many of the same issues as in the DPR – the service industry is functioning at fairly full thrust, but a trade blockade means that the professional jobs which would allow those professionals who have left Lugansk to return, and to the sphere of their employment, with commensurate salaries, are still in short supply. As with the DPR, low salaries and proportionately high prices.
- The main Novorossiya merchandising shop is located in Lugansk, there are a couple of branches in the city in fact, with both reporting themselves as doing growing business – English subs on this –
- From the outside looking in, it may seem as if the DPR is a stronger ‘brand’ than the LPR, on the inside, and indeed beyond – you’ll find the LPR equally represented on bags, flags, and more –