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Tensions Build at Russia-Ukraine Border

Published: March 24, 2014 (Issue # 1802)



  • A Ukrainian soldier standing guard at a temporary military camp 600 meters from Ukraine’s border with Russia.
    Photo: Pascal Dumont / SPT

SNEZHNOYE, Ukraine — While Russia formally takes control of Crimea, tensions have shifted to eastern Ukraine, where both Russian and Ukrainian military forces are concentrated along the shared border.

In the poverty-stricken industrial towns in Ukraine's Donetsk region near the border, local self-defense groups have been forming to protect the area from what they see as an imminent threat from western Ukraine.

Ivan Seleznev, 34, a well-built miner, is a local activist of the so-called Ukrainian Eastern Front organization, which, according to him, has more members than Ukraine's National Guard, which is currently managed by the fledgling pro-Western government in Kiev.

"It was a mistake to include our region into Ukraine. We are part of Russia," said Seleznev, sitting in Snezhnoye's only cafe.

Snezhnoye is only 15 kilometers from Russia. Many people make their living here by smuggling petrol from the nearest Russian towns.

Many miners in this town and dozens of other surrounding towns were left on the streets after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The area that once flourished today resembles a string of ghost towns along the dark highway from Russia to Donetsk.

Since state-run mines were shut down, many workers had to dig makeshift shafts themselves, usually without proper ventilation and structural support. Hundreds of miners died in such unlicensed mines every year.

Seleznev worked in one of these mines, known as "kopanki," and many of his friends perished there. Years of mismanagement and economic despair made him look to Russia, where he has extended family connections, for relief.

"People in the government and in western Ukraine think of us as some kind of inferior people," he said, sipping tea. "We will prove them wrong," he said.

"It is not about Russia as such, we just want some positive change in our lives," said Seleznev.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during today’s Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the center’s Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonight’s performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Center’s Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodina’s website for more details.



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