The secret of the Rostov burials

By Andrew Kaushik (Rostov-on-Don) and Vladimir Dergachov.
All photographs are by Andrew Kaushik.
04.01.2015
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

Gazeta.ru correspondent investigates whether the military casualties in Donbas are being buried in cemeteries in Rostov-on-Don

Photographs of fresh graves in Rostov-on-Don cemeteries, where Russian volunteer soldiers killed in Donbas were allegedly buried, have been circulating the Internet and were published in the major Ukrainian media. Gazeta.ru’s correspondent went to the Rostov cemetery and investigated the situation on site.

“…I could have gone to prison for this for a long time”

There were rumors of secret burials even three years ago: some civil activists thought that the authorities underreported the number of casualties from the floods in Krymske by several times. Referring to the anonymous statements by “emergency service workers,” they insisted that over a thousand people died, not 171. They looked for their graves in the adjacent Slovyansk district, but no evidence was submitted.

2

It seems that it is possible to hide anything in the North Cemetery in Rostov-on-Don, one of the biggest [cemeteries] in Europe, even a battalion or a division. The head of the administrative department for city cemetery services, Valeri Zykov, says that the area of the churchyard is more than 400 hectares. Half a million people have been laid to rest here over 40 years. This is the only active cemetery out of eight city cemeteries; the others are only used for very close relatives.

“The unknown ones are buried over there.” Valeri brings us to the rows of fresh piles of red soil, lot “31a.” Judging by the construction scattered around on the horizon, these are the photographs of “suspicious” graves that have found their way onto the Internet. “All is in accord with the documents that the morgue provides.”

We don’t have this here, to bring them and secretly dump and bury them. I could have gone to prison for this for a long time. I will never agree to bury insurgents or anyone who has not been authorized.

Some white stones have the name and dates, others have a featureless “UM” (unknown male) and “UF” (unknown female), with an approximate date of death and age (“40-45 years,” “60-70 years,” “40-50 years”). There is a large range, from 30 to 80 years.

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“Can the insurgents really be unknown?” The head of city burial services argues emotionally. “How can a 70-year-old grandfather or 60-year-old pensioner be useful in a fight? That’s nonsense.”

He admits that he has found some photographers here, but they are “just sick,” and when he goes to talk [to them], they run away for some reason.

In another lot, “20b,” the excavators are still buzzing in the trench as workmen stand to one side smoking. Some “unidentified” graves are fenced off, and are even marked with simple wooden crosses. Relatives are found according to last names, they pay their last respects, even if they are late.

One separate part of the cemetery is a memorial to unknown soldiers killed in the first Chechen campaign. Several hundred separate graves with small headstones, like in American films.

The Avenue of Honor

“Then there was a war where the government participated officially. Today we are saying that the army is not fighting, but we do admit that there are volunteers and ‘tourists/ vacationers.’ In my understanding it is uncivilized,” says the head of the historical memorial of the Rostov section of the Russian Society for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments, Aleksandr Kozhin.

“Here we called that war an ‘antiterrorist operation,’ a mirror image of the current situation in Ukraine. There is such a fork [in the road] towards Taganrog, and a mass of refrigerators with human remains coming from the Chechen war piled up on the railroads. We didn’t know what to do with them, the DNA lab could not manage. They probably decided at the government level to bury them here. They should be given their due, not in a mass grave but each separately.”

According to Kozhin, if Rostov volunteers are dying in Donbas, their comrades would not commit them to the earth in secret, but with honor.

“Recently, we looked into a story of a young man. He was a member of a search initiative, he was 25-26 years old. He sincerely believed in the ‘Russian World’ idea. I don’t know how long he fought, but he was killed,” the historian says. “His comrades from the search initiative turned to the administration of the Matveev Kurgan settlement with a request to inter his remains in the Avenue of Honor. I don’t know how they settled the issue.”

4He explained that the Don [area along the river Don] search staff went to Donbas several times. During one of their trips, the insurgents themselves detained another young man. They took him for a Ukrainian spy and almost put him up against the wall. After some other insurgents from the self-proclaimed republics “apologized profusely,” they let him go.

“It is possible to suppose that an insurgent left from Ukraine through Rostov and died here.”

Even the independent organization, “Women of the Don,” who deal with enlisted soldiers and monitor the situation with Donbas, do not know about the mass secret burials of insurgents who have fought in eastern Ukraine. The head of the organization, Valentina Cherevatenko, told Gazeta.ru that she had no information about the “suspicious” graves.

“I would start from what is called the presumption of innocence. In this situation, we immediately try to establish that someone is culpable for something, and we have to rectify it. But guilt must be proven. There is no evidence of mass burials,” Vladimir Artsibashev, the deputy head of Rostov administration, who is in charge of public utility issues, responds to Gazeta.ru. “The North cemetery has exhausted its resources. We are economizing every meter now, we are starting to cut the roads down; before, [the road] was four or five meters wide, now we leave a lane for one car, and carry out burials on the rest of the land. Woodlands are cleared, slopes and hills get leveled out. Rostov does not have its own land, we cannot choose a lot on the city’s territory for a new cemetery.”

The official confirmed that they regularly bury unclaimed bodies. If relatives are not found and the surname is not known, the headstones just show an approximate age and the letters UM or UF. It has always been like that, ever since the North cemetery was opened in 1972. According to him, the morgues themselves carry out tenders and identify a funeral organization. In one year, 436 people whose identity was not established were interred in a city with one million inhabitants.

To look at the situation theoretically, as described in the Ukrainian media, it would be more logical to bury soldiers somewhere near the border in remote areas where no one would see the graves. “It is incredibly difficult to do this in Rostov, there are no closed cemeteries, everything can be freely reached,” the deputy chief of the city continues. “There is a decision [made] by the local parliament and a resolution by the authorities whereby we only bury residents of Rostov or people who die in the city if their bodies are not collected by their relatives. It is possible to suppose that an insurgent left Ukraine through Rostov and died here. Then we have the right to bury him here. Such statistical analysis has not yet been conducted, but if there are instances like this, then you can count them on the palm of your hand, theoretically it is possible.”

The bodies are periodically removed once they accumulate.

The news about the arrival of 500 new graves was like a case of “Chinese whispers.” According to Artsibashev, in 2014 the authorities planned a road through the new Suvorovskiy city district (you can see it behind lot 31a), which went round the edge of the North cemetery. They needed 500 exhumations to do this. They abandoned the project after consulting the law in detail: it is not permitted to build anything on the cemetery, only plant trees.

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The field commander of the self-proclaimed DNR, Oleg Melnikov, told Gazeta.ru that Russians who are killed are buried locally if their relatives could not be found, or under extreme circumstances. For example, [like it happened] last summer when Slovyansk was surrounded by the ATO forces.

“Then it was not possible to move the people out, we buried them in a cemetery under the names of their commanders. On my people’s graves, there was the letter ‘M,’ I knew where my men were to ensure their graves wouldn’t get dug up,” Melnikov says.

They take the bodies out of the morgue and transfer them over the Russian border only if they find relatives to whom they can give the deceased for burial, the commander confirms.

“We had one case, when Pavel, a 22-year-old policeman from Moscow, told his relatives that he was going on a work trip. Instead, he took a leave of absence; joined us and got killed. We moved him and gave [his body] to his relatives, the Interior Ministry helped us in every way they could. I very much doubt that they will carry out anonymous burials in Rostov. If I wanted to hide bodies, which we are not doing of course, why not bury them in Donetsk or Luhansk?”

Other insurgents that Gazeta.ru has talked to said that they themselves move their comrades’ bodies out and give them to relatives. Vladislav Brig, the head of the self-proclaimed DNR Ministry of Defense said that the Donetsk Ombudsman negotiates with relatives and controls the dispatch of the bodies of Russian volunteers to their relatives. According to him, the  bodies are periodically removed once they accumulate.

Source: Gazeta.ru

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‘Frolivska 9/11′ volunteer: The People and the Ukrainian state live on different planets. #FreeSavchenko

By Lesya Litvinova, the “Frolivska 9/11” Volunteer Center
03.10.2015
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

Lesya Litvinova. SOURCE

Lesya Litvinova. SOURCE

A German journalist stumbled into the Frolivksa [Refugee Support Center] today.

An intelligent and experienced adult. Interesting to talk to. [He] asks non-standard questions, no offense to boys and girls, who usually come over to ask “how did you become a volunteer” and “tell a story that you most remember.” It is obvious that this person was genuinely trying to understand what is happening.

So the state does not help you at all? (Well, this is a standard question almost everyone asks.)

– No. (Usually, they take this answer for granted.)

And why? Do they not know about you? (Well, this is the question I personally do not know the answer to. They know, of course. In either case, the First Lady came for a visit, a couple of MPs, too, and all the social welfare officials willingly give my cell phone number along with a displaced person certificate.)

Can you [really] live separately from the state? (God knows … [Supposedly] we can’t. But we do … And we even function well.) Two steps from us is Serhiy, our favorite “boy from the ATO,” who rocks [Lesya’s 9-month old daughter] Varvara in a stroller.

And this uniformed guy with a small child – who is he?

I explain that he is a serviceman who is now being treated for another [brain] contusion and helping us in the meantime. Right now, he [works] as a volunteer babysitter for as long as I show the journalist around our warehouse.

Can I talk to him?

– Yes, why not.

Frolivska 9/11 volunteers. SOURCE

Frolivska 9/11 volunteers. SOURCE

We switch our places. I – get behind the stroller, and Serezha [diminutive form of Serhiy] starts talking [with the journalist]. After a couple of minutes, I approach them to listen.

What did volunteers help you with?

– Everything.

What you do mean by “everything”?

– Well … Uniform, armored vest, helmet, food, first aid kits, sleeping bags, everything …

And what about the state? (No, why would he talk about the state ….)

Serezhka is sincerely trying to remember something [about the state’s help].

– Weapons! – [he] happily announces – the state gave me weapons.

Are you from a volunteer battalion? – The German is trying to collect his thoughts.

– No, – Serezhka is genuinely surprised, – the Armed Forces of Ukraine…

– And how does it happen? – inquires the journalist – did they just give you weapons and nothing else, and said, “go to war”?

– Well, yes.

Serezhka honestly does not understand why someone is surprised by this. I’m trying to look at what is happening through the eyes of a person from another country and I understand that it is impossible to put one’s mind around this …

Galina Almazova, the “Breeze,” drives into the yard.

– Do you want to get introduced to some amazing people? They pulled wounded [soldiers] from the frontlines.

The German already feels there is a catch.

Are they also not state-funded employees?

I had no time to listen to the conversation then …

The journalist left us deep in thought, saying this in farewell:

It seems to me that in your country, the people live [and operate] separately from the state…

I told you so – [he] sincerely tried to understand ….

Yes, separately. So separately that it almost [feels like we live] on different planets. The funny thing about [this predicament] – is that both we and this state want the same things. But we still do not intersect …. I will not talk about the assistance of certain individuals that are close to this government. It is an informal assistance, not a state assistance, but rather, in spite of the system …

No, of course the state takes notice of us. Calls us to roundtables, coordinating councils, expert meetings. The state awards us with medals, certificates, and other souvenirs. The state says how proud it is of us…

Only roundtables lead to nowhere. Certificates and other acts given “Because you are great” cause embarrassment for those who issue them. And [we] want to be proud of [these papers] in response, but we can’t …

So far, the only testament to productive interaction [between us and the state] – is my cell phone number in every social welfare agency…

Source: Lesya Litvinova FB
Images Source: Frolivska 9/11 FB

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Dmitry Tymchuk: Military update 4.15 #FreeSavchenko

information_resistance_logo_engDmitry Tymchuk, Head of the Center for Military and Political Research, Coordinator of the Information Resistance group, Member of Parliament (People’s Front)
04.15.2015
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

Operational data from Information Resistance:

The military activity of Russian-terrorist troops in Donbas continues increasing. Over the last 24 hours, the most heated area was the Pisky – Avdiivka stretch (including the Donetsk Airport and Opytne). During the day, the positions of Ukrainian troops in the vicinity of Pisky were shelled 7 times, including 4 fire attacks from 120-mm mortars.

Additionally, the advanced positions of Ukrainian troops in this area were attacked by a group of terrorists supported by 4 armored vehicles. As a result of the firefight, the enemy lost 2 motor vehicles and 1 armored combat vehicle (MT-LB). During the clash, the enemy supported their unit with two ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft units and several mounted grenade launchers (AGS-17 “Plamya” [Flame]), in an attempt to suppress the defensive fire of the Ukrainian unit.

Right Sector leaving Pisky. Source

“Right Sector” leaving Pisky. SOURCE

Shelling by Russian-terrorist troops was also observed in the vicinity of Opytne, Mayorske, Leninske, Troitske and Krymske (in 4 instances).

The insurgents are commonly using the following tactic in their attacks: a group of 10-15 insurgents (less frequently, 25-30), supported by 1-2 mortar details operating 120-mm or 82-mm mortars (sometimes also supported with 2-4 armored vehicles), makes a concealed approach to the advanced positions of Ukrainian troops to reach the effective range, and delivers a brief fire strike. In these “raids,” the terrorists, in addition to small arms, are armed with heavy machine guns and mounted grenade launchers, which they are using in an attempt to quickly create fire superiority and suppress the retaliatory actions of Ukrainian units, which are mounting a defense at the advanced positions. Less commonly, the attacks use 2-3 groups, one of which is always employed for cover or fire suppression of the enemy.

War Veteran's house destroyed in Pisky during Orthodox Easter. SOURCE

War Veteran’s house destroyed in Pisky during Orthodox Easter. SOURCE

During the last 24 hours, we observed 27 transport vehicles moving through the ATO zone (including 9 vehicles moving individually). The supply traffic mainly follows the “northern” route (11 units) – past Debaltseve, from Luhansk and through Alchevsk, in the direction of Yenakijeve and Horlivka. Two more convoys drove towards Starobesheve (through Amvrosiivka) and Snizhne.

The following movements of personnel and combat equipment were observed:

– 7 tanks (including 2 tanks repaired after battles in Debaltseve) arrived in Donetsk through Makiivka. The convoy was escorted by two BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles.

– The insurgents are carrying out active construction work near Telmanove. 4 armored vehicles (three BMP-2 and one MT-LB) were transferred to this area.

– Insurgent reinforcements arrived in the Kuibyshivskyi district of Donetsk. The unit includes 100-120 personnel, 5 tanks, 3 trucks, and 120-mm mortars.

War Veteran's house destroyed in Pisky during Orthodox Easter. SOURCE

War Veteran’s house destroyed in Pisky during Orthodox Easter. SOURCE

Source: Dmitry Tymchuk FB  

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Borys Filatov: Let us remember, together, how it all began

By Borys Filatov,
journalist, lawyer, businessman,
Deputy Chairman of Dnipropetrovsk Regional State Administration on domestic policy.

03.28.2015
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

This is the text version of my speech at the rally [Ed: in Dnipropetrovsk after the resignation of former Governor Ihor Kolomoyskyi]. Video to come tomorrow.

filatov

Dear friends!

Today of all days, I am not sure how I should address you. Yesterday I would have said with certainty: “Dear citizens of Dnipropetrovsk.”  But today, I know that also with me are the hardworking Kryvyi Rih, the free Odesa, the glorious Zaporizhzhya, and the intelligent Kharkiv. Thousands of people have come to the Maidan Heroes Square in Dnipropetrovsk – not under orders, but following the call of their hearts. Through the icy rain and blustering wind.

So today I will simply call you: “Dear countrymen, compatriots, comrades in arms, and just good people.”

Standing here, on this stage, anyone else would be worried sick. But not me.

Because today, we are not ashamed to look every one of you in the eyes, knowing that not one of you can shout “Hanba!” [“Shame!”] back at us.

Let us remember, together, how it all began. Hundreds of people standing on this square are witnesses to the History that took place before our eyes. So no one can say that my words today are a lie or a PR stunt.

Let us recall how, in this very square, Euromaidan tents were being burned, Russian flags were being waved, and our flags trampled. The club and knife fights in the nearby streets. The attempts to storm the regional administration hall.

Let us remember how the very worst and basest things, stirred up by Russian propaganda, tried to let war into our home. We did not allow this.

I remember dozens of meetings with hotheads, with people who forgot that this is our country. Our land. Our Motherland, where our forefathers are buried and where our children should live. At every one of those meetings, I tried to get these basic truths across.

Why did we run for government posts, while we could have come to an agreement with the aggressor and quietly lived out our lives, spending our earned millions in the calm of Switzerland or safety of Israel? Why did we choose to become Putin’s personal enemies?

Because men, in their struggles, must follow the sacred principle that was set down back in the times of Ancient Rome: Pro aris et focis [For home and hearth]. Yes, this is our land. The place of our homes and sacred places. The place of our churches, synagogues and mosques.

I have no need to make long speeches about what we accomplished. Because we all know what it was.

We did not let the enemy into our home, like in the case of Luhansk and Donetsk.

We have not let them detonate bombs in our streets, like in the case of Odesa and Kharkiv.

We rooted out the underground gangs, and bought one-way tickets for every traitor and fifth-columnist. They can go live someplace they like. Or nowhere at all.

We armed battalions, saved the wounded, and freed prisoners. We sabotaged the separatist referendum across half of Donetsk oblast. We did not care about our own wealth, and spent millions of our own money on the struggle. While others laid low and waited to see who would win.

We shook up the foundations and broke through the stereotypes. We are mean, rough, and in-your-face. That earns us respect from our enemies and hatred from our friends.

Very often, we broke the law. Let God and Ukraine judge us for that. For we have already atoned for some of our sins before our country.

We are nothing but dust strewn by History on our people’s path towards justice and freedom.

We are nothing. Without you. Without each and every one of you. Without your daily service to the Motherland and your unlimited patience.

This is why today, for the first time in the 388 days of nightmare, I have tears in my eyes.

I want to thank you all. Volunteers. Soldiers and officers. Doctors and teachers. Our poor old people and our youth. Everyone, with no exception.

And I want to kneel before you, to honor all those injured, all those taken prisoner, and the memory of our fallen.

Where have we failed?

We have not overcome corruption. But God knows, we took no bribes, we did not steal, and we did not give lucrative jobs to our relatives.

We could not improve the welfare of our people. My heart is breaking when I meet people in the streets and cannot answer their question – how they are supposed to survive on a pension of one thousand hryvnia [USD 40].

We did not finish off the Regional–Communist abomination that had plunged our country into revolution and war, and is now dreaming of a rematch.

But we tried. We were simply not allowed to.

As God is my witness, I am not lying.

Today the time has come for us to leave.

But the great Churchill, who had first-hand knowledge of captivity, disgrace, and ostracism, once said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

And courage is the one thing we do not lack.

So, today, I would like to finish my speech by quoting Yuri Visbor, a Jewish poet with a Russian soul.

The day that we come back,
Without the pain of separation in our heart,
We’ll smile at you and say –
It’s over now.

Borys Filatov’s speech at the Dnipropetrovsk For Ukraine rally (03.28.15) [Russian audio]:

Source: Borys Filatov FB

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How to explain to a European why Russian cannot be the second state language in Ukraine. #FreeSavchenko

Pavel Shekhtman, civil activist, publicist, historian
04.07.2015
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

How to explain to a European why Russian cannot be the second state language in Ukraine:

Dear European,

Just imagine that in Ireland the Celtic language was so well preserved that everyone knew it to some extent, the overwhelming majority of the population could speak it fluently, and a significant number used it in daily life. And so the Irish ruled that it was the only state language.

And then some English speaking groups demand that English become the second state language.

Would the Irish go for it? In no way.

And you could understand why not – not under any circumstances. They want their own language, a living and actively working one.

And now let us add to this that in Britain there are people in power, with mass popular support, who say that the “Disintegration of the British Empire was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century” and that “anyone who is not sorry for the collapse of the British Empire has no heart.”

Source: Pavel Shekhtman FB

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