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East Ukrainian City Dying Under Siege

Published: August 6, 2014 (Issue # 1823)



  • Tape crisscrosses the glass in a Donetsk bus stop to prevent it from shattering if there is an explosion nearby.
    Photo: Dmitry Lovetsky / AP

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Residents say the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk is dying. The power grid was completely down Monday, the city government said, and fuel is running dry.

Store shelves are emptying fast, and those who haven’t managed to flee must drink untreated tap water. With little medicine left, doctors are sending patients home.

As Ukrainian government forces slowly tighten their ring around the city — one of two major pro-Russian rebel strongholds — traveling in and out has become a perilous undertaking.

In an impassioned statement released over the weekend, mayor Sergei Kravchenko described a situation that is becoming more unsustainable by the day.

“As a result of the blockade and ceaseless rocket attacks, the city is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe,” Kravchenko said. “Citizens are dying on the streets, in their courtyard and in their homes. Every new day brings only death and destruction.”

Luhansk, a city of more than 400,000 people at peacetime, now has seen its population dwindle as citizens flee violence and deprivation. Located about an hour’s drive from Russia, which Ukraine insists is supplying rebels with weapons and manpower, Luhansk is being fiercely fought over by all sides of the conflict.

Shelling is a daily occurrence and the targets apparently quite random. On Aug. 2, eight buildings were damaged by rockets. These included a school, a supermarket and several multistory apartment blocks, Luhansk city government said.

Last week, a crucial electrical transformer in Luhansk was hit by a shell, leading to an 80 percent drop in power supplies, according to a report issued Monday by an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitoring mission.

Rebels accuse the army of waging a vicious bombing campaign against the civilian population. Authorities deny they have used artillery against residential neighborhoods and in turn accuse rebels of shelling civilians as a way of discrediting the army. This claim is faithfully repeated by almost all Ukrainian media, although it has been questioned by Human Rights Watch and others.

With gas reserves all but exhausted, even those willing to brave a drive out of the city for supplies struggle to refill their cars.

A little is getting through all the same, mainly from Russia. Pro-rebel online television station Luhansk-24 on Sunday carried a report about a consignment of medicinal supplies reaching the city from the southern Russian city of Saratov.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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