Analytical report on the results of the research carried out among the population of temporarily uncontrolled territories


Analytical report on the results of the research

carried out among the population of temporarily uncontrolled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine,

conducted by “New Image Marketing Group”

within the framework of the project “Attitude to scenarios of reintegration of the temporarily uncontrolled territories”, initiated by the Ukrainian Institute for the Future                                     



Section 1 – Attitude to military conflict

Section 2 – Standards of living in temporarily uncontrolled territories

Section 3 – Sources of information

Section 4 – Attitude towards political leaders

Section 5 – Reaction on the most resonant event

Section 6 – Evaluation of possible scenarios of reintegration

Section 7 – General conclusions


Method of research focus group discussions (thereafter FGD)
he purpose of the research – defining the attitude of the population living in the temporarily uncontrolled territories of Ukraine to different scenarios of reintegration of the occupied territories

Total number – 8 FGD

Time-frames – September 2018

Geography and design of FGD:



Target demographic

FGD №1


Males/females age 18-39

FGD №2


Males/females age 40-70

FGD №3

village 1 in Donetsk region

Males/females age 18-39

FGD №4

village 2 in Donetsk region

Males/females age 40-70

FGD №5


Males/females age 18-39

FGD №6


Males/females age 40-70

FGD №7

village 1 in Luhansk region

Males/females age 18-39

FGD №8

village 2 in Luhansk region

Males/females age 40-70

The report is written with all quotations submitted in the original language without corrections

 The first question of the discussion regarding whom to blame for the conflict in the Donbas region has caused not only difficulties with giving the answer but also gave a very large range of answers among the participants of the focus group discussion. It is worth mentioning that some respondents noted the fact that their opinion and answer to this question has evolved over time, and now differs from the one that they had at the beginning of the conflict.

It is hard to tell now. If you asked earlier – a year, two, three years ago – there was one opinion who is guilty, at present time the further away, the greater the difference in opinions is (Luhansk, 40-70)

During the discussion, the following respondents' answers as to who was responsible for the outbreak of the conflict and the existing confrontation were recorded:

  • Viktor Yanukovych as the head of the country at the time when the conflict started, Yanukovych is being accused of treason and cowardice. He could not take a clear position, did not show willpower

I want to specify that it is the fault of Ukraine and at the same time it is the fault of Russia, because I have met Russians on the roadblocks, indeed, I met them there too (Luhansk, 40-70)

The biggest part of the fault lies with Viktor Yanukovych. When he was asked to sign either the deal with the European Union or the Customs Union, he wanted to sit on two chairs at the same time, and not take a step in any direction. If he had signed any of these agreements, these events would not happen. (Donetsk, 40-70)

It was necessary to act more rigidly, and then the conflict would stop. And he has let the situation take its own course, and that is all (Donetsk, 18-39)

As Lukashenko did in Belarus. He dispersed everyone during one day, and everything was over (Donetsk, 18-39)

The softness of the previous government. The similar events were beginning in Belarus as well. Lukashenko said: so-and-so, more than five people cannot gather together in public places. If Yanukovych had launched such a programme and do what they do abroad: use water cannons to disperse all these protesters. It would be better if they all got ill with pneumonia, but the war would not start (DPR village, 40-70)

  • Geopolitical processes that also caused revolutions and conflicts in other countries and the geographical location of Ukraine

Indeed, everything was prepared for a long time. It's all big geopolitics and all these color revolutions that took place in Asian countries, in such countries as Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, all this, you know, is a chain reaction (Luhansk, 40-70)

Ukraine is located at the place where the confrontation between Russia and America is going on. That's why it happened the way it happened. If Belarus was located on this territory, then Belarus would have suffered, if Moldova – then Moldova or another state would suffer. The reason is geolocation (Luhansk, 18-39)

  • The United States of America, as the dominant country on the world stage with the goal to confront Russia

Because the conflict on the border with Russia was very needed by the West, US, as well as the war for mega-resources in Asia, that they started in Iraq, and then started in other countries, Syria was and still is being bombed (Luhansk, 40-70)

It was conceived, has been conceived and it was supposed to go the way it goes, conceived by America. Ukraine is just a buffer between Russia and the rest of the world, that is, another scenario was not even possible (Donetsk, 40-70)

And I believe that these are the plans of the Americans and they appeared not yesterday, and not the day before yesterday, they are long-standing. Because the Soviet Union was their number one enemy for a long time. They were terrified of it and were splitting and splitting it. And always were splitting it. It was all going to such result. And Poroshenko supported it (DPR village, 18-39)

  • Ukraine (usually people meant representatives of the power in Ukraine – Poroshenko, Turchynov, Yatsenyuk)
  • EU, and specifically Germany and France (were named by individual respondents)

The European Union does not react in any way, although they were signatories together with Yanukovych then. They did not take any measures, violated everything and now they are also violating (Luhansk, 40-70)

  • Russia (usually people meant the Russian authorities, that confront the United States) – was named by individual respondents
  • The oligarchs of Ukraine, that were pushed by external actors – were named by the individual respondents, mostly in the countryside

Yura Yenakiyevsky (Yura “From Yenakiieve” is the head of the clan that tried to kill Akhmetov. The latter invested money in Poroshenko and so on. This is the internal situation and so on, the repartition of the country, a lot of money involved(DPR village, 40-70)

  • The mentality of Ukrainians, their venality – were named by individual respondent

Younger respondents often noted that the blame lies on both sides of the conflict (Russia and the United States), and that it was prepared and carefully planned, and now both these sides are also laundering money.

I think it was inconvenient to have a strong state next to Europe and Russia. So they staged such a coup together here (DPR village, 18-39)

 Most respondents noted that it was probably not possible to avoid the conflict, it could only be postponed.

I believe that Ukraine could hardly avoid it. It was all so well planned. I think it was planned and paid up. All the triggers were activated (DPR village, 18-39)

It was inevitable. It was all planned. Yanukovych held negotiations with the opposition, they were negotiating and signing. And everything was done as they needed anyway. The same probably would have happened in a year, six months, three years. But still would have happened, because America needs confrontation with Russia (Luhansk, 18-39)

At the same time, most of the participants noted that Yanukovych could contribute to another scenario – it was possible to “nip the conflict in the bud”, to disperse the Maidan, as it was done during the riots in Russia and Belarus.

It was a planned scenario. It was tested on us. This was planned and tested. It is not the goal and not the end result of the actions of Yanukovych or someone else`s actions. This is a war that was planned and it was supposed to happen (Donetsk, 40-70)

Because there were similar events in Russia and Belarus. Authorities are strong there, this was strangled. This is being prepared, of course. But will this happen or not depends only on authorities (Luhansk, 40-70)

I think that we could avoid it if president Yanukovych had simply sent the military forces to this Maidan, forbade this all mess. There would have been no Maidan, there would have been no all other things, all consequences (LPR village, 18-39)

I also think that he (Yanukovych) could stop it. He had all the units, all special forces, all troops. He was the sitting President, he could stop it all. But you see, he was pressured so much, he did not know what to do, and he just ran away, gave up his country, gave up his people (DPR village, 18-39)

Such factors and events that could have helped to prevent the onset of conflict were mentioned:ü  Electing a legitimate Presidentü  Maintaining close ties with the CIS countries, not strengthening ties with the US and the EUü  After the Maidan, the government of Ukraine could have listened to the opinion of the Donbass region

They could try to find a way to agree somehow. But they immediately started shooting (LPR village, 40-70)

 ü  Reducing the influence and having tighter control over nationalist movements 

We and Nazis have different paths. We have a very different mentality. We are more Russian and not alike with Western Ukrainians. Therefore, we think in Russian and speak Russian (LPR village, 40-70)

People note that the Maidan was created artificially. People who took part in it were paid, encouraged, motivated to take part in the Maidan. Over time everything increased and led to catastrophe. At the same time, the US and European countries tried to dismember not only Ukraine but also Russia, and therefore supported the events on the Maidan, and everything that happened later. The participants of the discussion noted all these things.

And the Maidan – it was not a really cheap event as well. It must have been sponsored by someone for years. (Donetsk, 40-70)

It was all in order to start the war. The task was to split Ukraine, and this way to weaken Russia, because the main task is – to split Russia, to divide it, to take away Russia's resources. This is the main goal of the world businessmen (Luhansk, 40-70)

Respondents also noted that the deputies who did not speak out against the appointment of Turchynov, Putin, who could refuse to recognize the presidential elections and speak out against the appointment of Poroshenko should be blamed for the onset of the conflict. They all had the opportunity to prevent it.

I'll just tell you that Russia and Putin could express their no regarding this issue (Luhansk, 40-70)

He (Putin) said nothing. And when Poroshenko was elected, he recognized him as the legitimate president. I also believe that in this respect Russia also can be blamed (Luhansk, 40-70)

The following goals pursued by Ukraine (national authorities) in the conflict were named:

  • Return of territories is the main goal of Ukraine: to return the territory, with the goal of returning people, bringing them peaceful life and improving living conditions - no, some respondents note.

They said themselves: we do not need people, we need territory (LPR village, 40-70)

  • Money-laundering and personal enrichment of the authorities. Another part of participants notes that war is favorable to the authorities of Ukraine that earn money for themselves and working off money borrowed from other countries. Some respondents mentioned the "case of backpacks" as an example of money laundering through conflict by a government official.
  • Receiving additional grants from the EU and the USA

Getting more money from the West. War is a means for the rich to get more money (Luhansk, 18-39)

  • Nationalism, national idea – some political forces (“Svoboda”, “People's Front”) continue to defend their nationalistic positions, which contributes to the continuation of the conflict.
  • The desire to come to power through a coup.

The respondents noted that Ukraine does not make any efforts to implement the “Minsk agreements” and does not even try to contribute to the resolution of the conflict.

Among the goals pursued by Russia in the conflict, the respondents named the following:

  • Protecting own interests, protecting its territory

Need to secure own borders. It is a normal geopolitical decision. What country needs a war on its border? (LPR village, 18-39)

Russia closes its borders here (DPR village, 18-39)

  • Not allowing NATO troops to be on the border
  • Creation of a buffer zone for the US confrontation

No one needs an enemy at the gates. Russia does not need us as just citizens, as Russia already has enough citizens. But having the territory that will be divided by the buffer zone, this is beneficial to Russia (Luhansk, 40-70)

  • Red herring – switching attention from Crimea to Donbass

Russia would benefit from such a situation here, I think. Just to make west leave Crimea alone. It seems to me that it is so (Luhansk, 40-70)

  • Protection of interests of Donbass population from Ukrainians with nationalistic ideas

Russia, even if it defends its interests, and it is necessary to defend them. But if Russia somehow allows that we are torn here and enslaved, then thanks, Russia (Donetsk, 40-70)

Thank you, Mr. Putin and his team (Donetsk, 40-70)

I still think that Russians do not leave own people behind (LPR village, 18-39)

Protection. Russia will not allow to destroy the Russian-speaking population in the Donbass region(DPR village, 18-39)

Russia did what it did – we all felt this shield, this protection that Russia gave us, security. Yes, it was some kind of very shaky, but, nevertheless, thanks to this we all survived. And we now feel it, no matter what (DPR village, 18-39)

They protect us and if not their help, I do not know what would be here (Luhansk, 18-39)

Russia does not fight, but simply protects us (LPR village, 40-70)

At the moment, Russia has taken a wait-and-see position. At the same time, respondents note that in 2014 they were full of hopes to become part of Russia and to make this happen they took part in the Referendum. Their expectations have not been met. Russia hints by its actions that it will more likely agree to return the territories to Ukraine, although the respondents do not want it.

Every person had a thought. And what happened? Minsk agreements everything returns back, that is, leaving us in borders of Ukraine, the one we do not like at the moment (Luhansk, 40-70)

Donbass goes back to Ukraine, that's their approach (Luhansk, 40-70) 

Some respondents supported the following position of Russia (from the list suggested ones) – while protecting its own interests, Russia also protects the interests of the population of Donbass.

Putin always says that we will not leave our people behind just like that. That is, we still feel the protection in these words that we will not be thrown to the wolves (Luhansk, 40-70)

I think that the third one is right – Russia protects own interests, and thus has to support us (LPR village, 18-39)

 Among the goals pursued by the West, participants named the following:

  • Confronting Russia
  • Creation of a buffer zone in Ukraine, a “colony” that has financial dependence and will defend the interests of the West that are targeting Russia
  • The installation of NATO bases closer to Russia
  • Weakening of Russia's influence through destabilization

And I think they need our territory because it is close to Russia, to weaken, to undermine Russia (LPR village, 18-39)

  • Occupation of Russia and its resources
  • The dismembering of Ukraine and then of Russia
  • Occupation of Ukraine and its resources

Conquering this territory. First of all, we have a territory. Ukraine has good land, relatively good climate (Luhansk, 40-70)

They need territory, they need raw materials, starting with this shale gas. Everything started because of this shale gas, started from Slavyansk. And they are still exploiting it in Slavyansk. The entire population was against it, the referendum was carried out. They are still exploiting it because the territory was sold to the Americans (Donetsk, 40-70)

The second thing is what was told about shale gas in 2014. It was said that it seems that there are deposits of it here, that is, money (LPR village, 18-39)

The fact is that Donbass has always been a tasty morsel for everyone. No wonder John Hughes came here. He, apparently, had some inner radar for gas. When Hitler went to Russia, he went purposefully to the Donbass. He needed Donbass very much as a nutritious region. A place where he can take everything and bring to his country. But we stayed that way. Plus, they still have the desire to use us (DPR village, 18-39)

  • Seizure of territories for the further dumping of wastes

Wastes. They wanted to organize storing of their wastes here on our territory (DPR village, 18-39)

Most respondents agree with the statement that the West started the war and pushed two fraternal nations to fight with each other.

Separating children from their mother, or how else can this be called (Luhansk, 40-70)

Belarus, Ukraine and Russia are three Slavic nations who were fraternal and inseparable for centuries. And the purpose of Europe, obviously, is to divide, to break up, to cause internecine wars. And to make this happen they need to weaken each state and seize it (Donetsk, 40-70)

Also, some respondents noted that the States do not care whom to pit against each other, the main thing that it is directed against Russia.

Older respondents identify themselves as both Ukrainians and Russians. But some respondents say that they will not be able to forgive Ukraine, although the majority notes that they do not hate the Ukrainian people. Younger respondents say that Ukrainians and Russians are fraternal nations who have a common culture and mentality. Some respondents note that they lost the feeling of brotherhood with Ukrainians because there is anti-Russian and anti-republican propaganda in Ukraine. And people in Ukraine hate the citizens of the DPR and LPR.

They're killing brotherhood. They treat word “Russian” as a dirty word (Luhansk, 18-39)

The following goals pursued by the DPR and the LPR, and by the participants of the discussions, were named:

  • The recognition of the republics and joining Russia

Recognition of documents, and eventually becoming part of Russia, becoming normal people, and not some, pardon, lowlifes who live in limbo, cannot go anywhere (Luhansk, 18-39)

  • Creating the federation that will be part of Ukraine and have with enhanced powers, which will provide an opportunity to adopt laws and independently build political and economic ties
  • Confronting Kiev and the new national government, that came to power in an illegal way
  • Confronting and preventing the spread of nationalistic Banderite ideology”
  • The protection of own interests, of the right to speak the Russian language, of its territory

Respondents expressed their concerns about possible repressions if a peacekeeping contingent will be deployed. They say that they might be taken to “filtration camps”. They note that they will never be able to live in Ukraine, while “power of Banderites" reigns in the country and the nationalist idea is being spread, which is quite alien and unacceptable for them.

Well, figuratively speaking, Americans would do it. They would smash us like bugs and nothing will be left from us, no one alive. They would smash those who support one side or another side. We all will end up at filtration camps (Luhansk, 40-70)

The thing is that we just cannot accept Banderite`s ideology. What is now legalized and accepted in Ukraine, we just cannot accept (Luhansk, 40-70)

Section 2 – Standards of living in temporarily uncontrolled territories

The vast majority of respondents noted that their living standards have changed drastically and in a negative way compared to 2013. Participants mentioned the following negative changes:

  • Continuation of hostilities
  • The lack of recognition of the republics
  • Destruction of families, part of family members went to Russia or Ukraine

Families are torn apart. Many families went to Ukraine, to other countries. that is parents separately, children separately. Sometimes it is very problematic to meet, to reunite a family (Donetsk, 40-70)

  • The increase in prices and the lack of increase in wages and pensions, which led to a significant deterioration in material living standards

We have nothing to live on. We have the same prices as in Russia, and wages are several times less. Pensions are even smaller. People don't have enough money to live. Wages are five times lower than before (Luhansk, 18-39)

  • Inability to move freely, to travel to Russia or Ukraine
  • The growth of unemployment, the impossibility of finding extra part-time work

Life has changed for the worst. Because when we were part of Ukraine we had jobs (Donetsk, 18-39)

  • The departure of the younger generation abroad to work
  • The inability to have decent vacation, rehabilitation, recreation
  • Increase in utility prices and expecting the next increase with fear
  • The lack of an adequate banking system, the impossibility of getting a loan
  • The lack of free movement between the DPR and LPR (customs exist)
  • The status of the reservation, the difficulty in crossing the demarcation line
  • Loss of savings
  • Lack of railway communication between Ukraine and Russia
  • Destruction of the airport (Donetsk)
  • The existence of roadblocks, inefficient throughput at checkpoints on the side of DPR
  • The inability to make and receive an online purchase – mail services do not work
  • Shortage of certain categories of goods, absence of them in the republics and the inability to buy through the Internet
  • Low quality of products

Here everything is done through some offshores, through some other cities and companies. And this is annoying, as we feel like some disadvantaged people. Yes, there is a lot of good, but Ukrainian goods still have better quality. We receive Russian products of not very good quality. That is why it is worse (Donetsk, 18-39)

  • The high cost of postal services provided by Russian Post
  • There are no free medical services, while those who come from Ukraine and have a residence permit, although they do not live in LPR / DPR, receive services for free

People from Ukraine are invited to come here, they receive medical services for free. But our people should pay twenty, thirty, forty thousand to have surgery (LPR village, 18-39)

  • Certificates, diplomas and other documents that are not considered to be valid
  • Impossibility to provide comprehensive development for children, especially in rural areas
  • The ban on the import of products from Ukraine, while Ukrainian products are sold in local stores
  • Lack of adequate financing of public institutions, lack of funds in local budgets

I don't know about other institutions, but in the one I work for, the administration claims that even one ruble for not given for preparation for winter. It is already September, winter will soon come, and nothing was done to prepare the heating system. I have no idea will we have heating or not (Luhansk, 18-39)

Such positive changes in the republics were mentioned by the respondents:

  • Utility prices are several times lower than in Ukraine and do not increase so rapidly
  • Affordable cost of public transport
  • Public transport operates full-time (Donetsk)
  • Renewal of the public transport fleet (Donetsk)
  • A large number of cultural events are held, although some respondents consider such a large number of holidays to be inappropriate

That is the Luhansk Circus Republic. We have concerts every day, the stage is not even being removed (LPR village, 18-39)

  • The authorities do not forbid people to speak Russian (the village of LPR / DPR)

Because this pressure on the Donbass was long before the Maidan, which became a trigger for all this. We all felt it for some reason. And the suppression of the Russian language. This was kind of implicit, but we all felt it. But it has changed, I do not feel this pressure (DPR village, 18-39)

  • Free ambulance service
  • Cheap and delicious bread (LPR villages)
  • Emotional peace

Emotional comfort. We returned, and I appreciated this emotional comfort from the first minutes. You're not under any pressure. This is the first thing we felt. You see free people and you can have your opinions with them without being afraid (DPR village, 18-39)

  • Representatives of the militia began to behave more courteous and correct, they do not violate the rules and laws (Donetsk)

Everything is in a decent way. Previously you go somewhere, take a look, the police officer or member of the militia, they all went through a red light. And now they started keeping to the rules. Also, they are not sticking out their machine guns from car windows already (Donetsk, 18-39)

  • Authorities of the republics are more adequate than the authorities in Ukraine
  • No armed people on the streets

Armed people are not walking around Lugansk. You cannot see them. But in Kiev when you arrive to train station you already see all these Nazis behaving rudely, walking around with weapons, and all these American "Hummers" (LPR village, 40-70)

 Some participants noted that the following parties benefited from the conflict:

  • Authorities of Ukraine (using war for laundering money)
  • The authorities of the DPR and LPR
  • All supervisory authorities of DPR and LPR (police, prosecutor's office, etc)
  • Manufacturers of weapons and other military equipment

I have friends living in Ukraine, and they are saying: "In our village, they even have built a small factory. They produce some bullets. Now we all have what to do” (DPR village, 18-39)

  • Military of Ukraine and participants of the ATO

People from villages and provincial towns that did not have work all went to ATO. They all now receive their ten-fifteen thousand hryvnias, while before the war they did not have even two thousand. We had incredible looting here. Everyone left at that time, take what you want (DPR village, 18-39)

 The other part of participants said that everyone has lost in this conflict everyone has losses, such as:

  • DPR and LPR lost all economic ties, the industry is almost not working, enterprises closed, people are dying
  • Ukraine, having the need to maintain the army
  • Russia – invests money to support Donbass
  • America – helps Ukraine financially, and also loses money

Assessing the number of people that departed, respondents provided the following answers:

  • According to respondents, about 50-60% of the population departed from LPR. Most of them went to Russia, although the majority of the younger generation went to Ukraine. Some participants noted that 30-40% of the population departed and did not return.
  • Participants from DPR cities provided other estimates - most of those who departed, have already returned back, especially older people. They could not adjust and settle in a new place of residence, so they returned. Young people usually do not return, and the majority of young people have departed to

The majority of young people went to Russia. Many settled there, found a job, began building their lives there (Donetsk, 40-70)

  • Respondents from rural areas of the DPR noted that the majority have own experiences and they left, but then returned. The reasons are similar – low wages and high rents. Also, there are personal challenges – hospitals refused to give services, owners of apartments did not want to rent them out.

 The following opinions of the participants of different ages on their readiness to leave were recorded:

  • Most of the older participants are not ready to leave, have neither the desire nor the funds

Taking into account my age, I want to live at home and having my own bed (Luhansk, 40-70)

  • Majority of the younger participants are also not ready to leave. Although almost all respondents living in cities have such experience, they mentioned such reasons for the reluctance to depart:

1) Owning housing

2) The desire to live at own home on native land

Yes. But still, there is such thing as being homesick, even though the war still goes on. Noone needed us there, we are needed only here at home (Donetsk, 18-39)

Well, in fact, no one ever needs you anywhere, unless you yourself find your place. Therefore, everything is easier at home (Donetsk, 18-39)

I'm not going anywhere from my native village. Walls of own dear home warm up your soul and body (DPR village, 18-39))

 3) Low wages, high rental fees

4) Neglecting and humiliation by Ukrainians

After the attitude, the emotional neglect and destruction that I encountered in Ukraine, I will never go there again (DPR village, 18-39)

Those who are ready to depart, consider Russia to be the country where they can find a new place of residence.

The following enterprises and businesses have adjusted to the current situation in DPR and LPR:

  • Trade (50% of those that functioned earlier) – the enterprises involved in the trade have adjusted most effectively, also small enterprises involved in the trade are actively developing
  • Restaurant business, public catering
  • Road transport operators
  • Gas stations
  • Pharmacies
  • Medical services (dentistry)
  • Services for the population (repair services, beauty salons)
I look at job advertisements – hairdressers needed, nail artists needed.No need for engineering personnel (DPR village, 40-70)
  • Tobacco production
  • Railway (Luhansk)
  • Farming (rural areas)
  • Coal mines (Severnaya and Bilorichenska)
  • Industry – enterprises of this sector have adjusted the least The following industrial enterprises continue operating, but only producing about 20% of the previous volumes were mentioned:

·                    Luhanskelectrotrans, Luhansk Foundry-Mechanical Plant, Luhansk Cartridge Works, Lugtsentrokuz named after .S.S.Monyatovsky, Luhansk Pipe Fittings Plant MARSHAL”, TM “Korovai”, Luhansk Meat-Processing Plant, almost all enterprises of Alchevsk, Luhansk Locomotive Works, Stakhanov Ferroalloy Plant, Lutuhyne Building Material Plant Yasinovatskiy Machine Building Plant, Yasinovskiy Coking Chemical Plant (Donetsk), Factory «NORD», these enterprises continue functioning only with the assistance of Russian Federation

Everything that keeps functioning here is linked to Russia, thanks to their generosity and goodwill. These enterprises, plants, Yasinovatskiy Machine Building Plant, Yasinovskiy Coking Chemical Plant, and others keep working because of their generosity. Without that nothing would have been working here (Donetsk, 18-39)

The respondents from Luhansk say about the deterioration in work of utility and public services and deterioration of infrastructure – there is more garbage, much more is said about the general repair of roads only "patching" is done (stays less than one year), the stores are closing.

On the contrary, participants from Donetsk mentioned effective work of the municipal enterprises. Road repairs have also improved significantly.

All our utility services are working so well. We were blaming them so much. I went to courts to sue them several times before this war started. I hated them. If we did not have war now then I would simply love them. People are shooting around, and water utility services come and fix everything they need. And greening goes on. Our city was always “the city of roses’, and it remains to be “the city of roses”. So many roses around. And roads. We probably never had such roads before. They are all paved (Donetsk, 40-70)

They are working very well. Everything is in perfect order. We did not have it like that even during the peaceful time. They are working. They are taking away all trash, cleaning everything. And gas services also operate well (Donetsk, 18-39)

Respondents mentioned the following factors that contributed to the adjustment of enterprises and businesses in the situation of conflict:

  • Persistence of owners
  • The efforts and enthusiasm of the workers
  • Funds accumulated by representatives of the business elite, that they began to invest in enterprises
  • Economic ties with Russia, which serves as the market for selling goods
  • Selling goods to the Crimea
  • Availability of raw materials that provides an opportunity to produce various products (agricultural products, sandpits, coal)
  • Assistance and investments from the Russian Federation (new business are opening -poultry farm, for example, DPR village)

The next set of questions was related to evaluating representatives of local authorities. Respondents from the DPR positively assessed the activity of Zakharchenko as of the head of the republic – a real man, an effective leader, a clear leader.

The republican power of the LPR was evaluated rather negatively. People consider it to be passive, while the local authorities were assessed rather positively. Although it was noted that the majority of the authorities (especially the republican ones) are not professional, do not know the laws, do not understand the processes that occur and do not have real solutions to problematic issues. Nepotism and corruption during employment in public institutions are thriving. At the same time, respondents like the current government of the LPR more than the former one which was selling humanitarian aid in stores.

I wish that more competent people worked there and not just someone`s friends, brothers, sisters and so on, who are just looking for the lucrative job (Luhansk, 18-39)

The participants also note that it takes time to master management skills. Right now the DPR and LPR are unrecognized republics, and this negatively affects the life in these regions. Another negative factor is the lack of an adequate law basis and frequent change of authorities, appointment of people with no management experience on leading positions. Dishonesty and the desire to get wealth, which is typical for the majority of appointed authorities, also have a negative impact on the effectiveness of governance.

And here we return to the fact that there is no head of the republic. Luhansk republic, for example, there is no head (Luhansk, 40-70)

Since 2014 our central authorities … People came from Brianka, Krasnodon, they came from the periphery and decided that they will be managing whole LPR. You understand? And since then this all started. We have lost so many specialists. And unqualified people are preparing laws. And then these laws are not linking with one another. It is absolutely impossible to work with it (Luhansk, 40-70)

First of all, they do not have their own point of view, their own legislation. First, they were taking Ukrainian laws, now they are implementing Russian laws. There is nothing of its own in this republic. And they are taking not the best, most profitable things for us. They are implementing laws that will help to replenish the budget – lowers wages, higher fines (LPR village, 18-39)

As soon as you begin to get used to a person, he becomes an authority, he or she will be killed or removed (LPR village, 18-39)

Yes, there was incompetence, but there was also the desire to get rich and also there is corruption. These are probably the main problems that hinder normal functioning of our state. They probably should pay more attention to it or pick more honest people (Luhansk, 40-70)

Evaluation of various representatives of the republican local authorities and business representatives is given below:

  • The mayor of Luhansk (Manolis Pilavov) – he received a positive evaluation. People say that he is a good host, “did not do anything wrong for the city”, roads are being repaired, “greening” is happening. But he does not have a professional team, and there is no adequate legislative framework (there is no effective judicial system, Land Law has not been adopted), or the laws do not work in some cases. Some respondents note that the mayor has the potential to work effectively in the republican government, but he does not try to get there. The lack of an adequate legislative framework is the fault of the representatives of the republican authorities, and sometimes completely absurd laws are adopted, which the local authorities are not able to
  • Zinaida Naiden is the effective manager, her merit is that the enterprise she heads continues functioning (Luhansk).

The question about the level of security in the DPR and LPR was very difficult for the participants of the discussion. Although almost all respondents said that it is very dangerous to live in the republics, they named the main factor that increases the level of danger – the intensification of hostilities and the proximity of the front line.

It is worth mentioning that the participants from Donetsk assessed the level of safety as "good enough". They said that the number of attacks has decreased, so they feel more secure. However, some respondents feel the danger from the militia members who drink much alcohol and may behave inappropriately.

I think that people who go to war must be selected carefully, because there are such people who are drunk in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening, carry the machine gun, and anything else that you can only imagine. If he will fall, everything will explode. So with this a little scary (Donetsk, 18-39)

At the same time, respondents said that the level of internal crime has significantly decreased (both in the LPR and in the DPR). There are less and less domestic crimes, thefts in public transport. Such changes are most likely connected with having the curfew and living under martial law when the punishment for crimes becomes more cruel.(And possibly the worst offenders have already died in the ATO)

Only some respondents believe that it is dangerous to live in LPR, name frequent cases of attacks, usage of weapons and ammunition in public places. There are no patrols the city at night – “The monuments are guarded, overpasses and bridges are guarded”. The police rarely cope with the investigation of assaults, robberies.

The vast majority of respondents communicate with relatives and friends living in Ukraine. They usually communicate over the phone and on the Internet. They leave territories not often because of the complexity in crossing checkpoints – long queues (usually these are queues at the posts in the DPR and LPR). Also, the cost of travel is rather high.

You know, I used to go there more often. And now passing through those checkpoints, especially DNR ones, is so annoying. You need to waste much time on it. Either they have the shortage of staff, or they have the shortage of computers. There are almost no queues on the Ukrainian side (DPR village, 18-39))

Some respondents noted that they are aware of facts when people who go through checkpoint were questioned and examined. This makes trips to Ukraine to be even more complicated and causes fear. Those who are members of public associations or movements of the republics avoid going to Ukraine as they are afraid of negative consequences

If a young man or young lady is crossing the border worker of SBU would take you and tell you: give information about three separatists, you should know some members of the militia, your friend or neighbor should know someone working at some state institutions or someone who is at war. Just tell me. I'll just write the name down and that's it. That is how they are conducting the inquiry when you are crossing the border (LPR village, 18-39)

And not only young ones. Pensioners too. Our former teacher told me: they were keeping then till 10 pm because they had some suspicions, or they thought that she is a member of "Peace for Luhansk Region”. She is a pensioner, she was kept until ten in the evening (LPR village, 18-39)

It was difficult for the participants to estimate the number of citizens of republics that receive pensions in Ukraine. They noted that everyone who has enough strength and health to pass the checkpoints are receiving pensions there – around 70% of pensioners. The remaining 30% either refused the Ukrainian pension as a matter of principle, cannot meet the requirements or cannot go to Ukraine for health reasons. At the same time, it was noted that the number of inspections made by Ukraine has increased. It has become more difficult to qualify for pensions and receive them.

Very many. Almost everyone goes to Ukraine to receive pensions. Almost all our street successfully goes to Ukraine every month to receive pensions. It is impossible to live off our pension. But the thing is, it's not easy. They now have very stringent requirements. They are trying to use all methods not to pay (DPR village, 18-39)

There is very little information regarding wages. People are aware only about cases when a person lives in one of republics, but goes to Ukraine as fly-in/fly-out employee, thus receives salary in Ukraine.

We have those who are fly-in/fly-out employees. Enterprises left to other regions, and people go working there. They work there and come here. Doing some freelance tasks also. Yes, we have that (DPR village, 18-39)

People evaluate living standards of Ukrainians in a different way. It depends on the place of residence. In Odessa living standards are better, and in towns of Donetsk region they are the same as respondents have.

The advantages of living in Ukraine mentioned by the participants of discussions:

  • Absence of war
  • Recognition of the country, having legally binding instruments
  • Having citizenship and civil rights

They have civil rights, and they are still being implemented. And we here have no citizenship, and therefore no civil rights. That is, we are voiceless. No matter how you call it, this is what we have (DPR village, 18-39)

  • Freedom of movement and leaving to other countries

Freedom of movement and leaving. We're all stuck here. It's ghetto, it's the reservation (DPR village, 18-39)

  • Pension increase
  • The existence of the banking system
  • The existence of delivery services
  • Having the prospects
  • No shortage of medicines, access to foreign medicines
  • Subsidies for utility bills
  • High quality, delicious food

Dairy products and sausages produced in Ukraine are very tasty (DPR village, 40-70)

  • Improvement of infrastructure in towns

Lvov was polished. It is beautiful, cleaned, renovated. That lion's been licked. It is beautiful, clean, renovated. But, of course, is the political stuff. I want to say that I travel mainly to Mariupol and Volnovakha. These are the villages that are going to this side. Volnovakha used to be a real distant village. Now when you come you see that here and there something is being constructed. And I went to Kiev about a year and a half ago. Kiev, in general, has flourished. There are a lot of new buildings, very beautiful. New houses are constantly built (DPR village, 18-39)

  • Visa-free regime

And about areas in Western Ukraine. You are right – they have real freedom there now! They say: "We go to Poland all time". Yes, but now it is very easy. It is just like we go to Mariupol; they go to Poland the same way. They have no problems there at all. They have a wonderful and wealthy life there (DPR village, 18-39)

 The disadvantages of living in Ukraine mentioned by the respondents:

  • High utility rates
  • High rental fees
  • The departure of a large number of people abroad to work, especially young people
  • Unfair pensions increase (for one category it was raised significantly, and the others got a dime)
  • Deterioration of the demographic situation, the reduction of the birth rate
  • Diminishing of credibility on the world stage – always with hat in hand
  • Medical reform (hospitals are closing, ambulance service is eliminated), high cost of medical care

It cannot be compared. My husband had a mild heart attack. He had surgery here for free. And next month his friend who lives in Odessa had the same. He paid fifty thousand hryvnias for surgery plus two hundred fifty hryvnias for one shot, plus had to pay for each drip (Luhansk, 18-39)

  • Danger coming from groups with nationalist aspirations, representatives of business are in the biggest danger

They are still afraid. Especially of the Right Sector. I know that entrepreneurs do. The Right Sector can take their business, they can come to some of them, and can do anything (LPR village, 18-39)

  • Nationalist ideology

I just want to tell about my parents. Their pensions increased. Mom receives two and a half, dad receives almost seven. That is, they can live rather well, especially as they have own housing. But the materialistic side is probably not most important, but the ideology... They are old-school people, they do not understand and they refuse to understand and accept this ideology, which is being imposed. My dad even says that he does not want to watch any Ukrainian channels because he does not trust them (Luhansk, 40-70)

IDP (internally displaced person) have the most difficult living conditions, as they have to rent accommodations, it is very hard for them to find jobs. And they also need to help their parents and children.

Respondents mentioned the following negative changes in Ukraine that happened over the past 5 years:

  • Deterioration in living standards and income
  • Increase in utility prices
  • Increase in unemployment
  • Problems with getting coal

My mother also lives in her own private house. But it is almost impossible to buy coal. It's a real problem for her to get coal. There is no coal and you cannot buy it. You need “connections”, need to constantly ask people whether they can help with it. And it repeats every year. During all past four years, we have a very big problem with coal (DPR village, 18-39)

  • Disappointment with authorities, complete distrust of politicians and the President

They are so displeased. In the subway, they are discussing only this topic. Cursing the government. Saying that it is impossible to survive (LPR village, 40-70)

  • Lack of freedom of speech, fear of being punished for their views that differ from the official ideology

They say that when they start discussing something about politics, against the current authorities, immediately some third person is coming to listen. And they are already to discuss it because someone might be snitching (Luhansk, 40-70)

  • Imposition of national idea and Ukrainian language

People are so frightened, especially in state structures, social services. They are now obliged to have vyshyvanka at the lockers at their work. And when they just hear that there will be some kind of inspection, they are immediately wearing these vyshyvankas on top of all their clothes. And they are allowed to speak only Ukrainian. If you say a work in Russian – it will be reported. This is absolutely not normal situation. They are praying. They say that we here have bad conditions, but their conditions are several times worse. All is that bad (Luhansk, 40-70)

 The wellbeing of citizens of DPR and LPR is possible only if republics will be recognized or will become part of Russia. Nothing depends on ordinary people right now, their features and human potential cannot be the basis for success. Informants name what can help being successful in DPR and LPR:

  • Having enough funds (“pool of money” accumulated earlier)
  • Getting own way to power
  • Getting senior positions in government structures
  • Using connections and nepotism
  • Being a programmer and working remotely for foreign clients
  • Receiving 2 pensions – both Russian and Ukrainian

Participants named the following levels of income that will make it possible to feel happy:

  • Minimal – from 15-20 thousand (rural area) to 25-30 thousand rubles (350-400 Euros) for each family member per month, 20-25 thousand are, rather, more optimal as a pension
  • Optimal – 50-60-80 thousand rubles per month for each family member, such income will make you feel comfortable

A family needs 25 thousand just for food and utility bills. And this money would be enough only if you do not spend on anything else (Luhansk, 18-39)

  • 1-1,5 thousand dollars

Section 3 – Sources of information


          The sources of information used by the respondents depend on the age of the participants and their place of residence. The most popular sources are the following: 

a. Television – participants all age groups watch Ukrainian TV channels. Younger people seldom watch television in general and Ukrainian TV channels in particular.

b. Internet (news sites, web-resources, YouTube, social networks) is used by all age groups. Social networks as a source of information are more common for younger respondents. Residents of the villages of LPR of older age said that they almost do not use internet.

c. Radio (usually Russian radio stations).

d. Word of mouthAmong the TV channels, which are often used by participants to receive information, the following were named:

ü. Russian TV channels: Channel One Russia, REN TV, CTC TV, Russia 1, Russia 24, NTV, Zvezda, TNT, NTN, RTR, RTR-planeta, MIRü      Local TV channels: Lugansk-24, respondents from DPR are seldom watching local channels and almost do not trust them, consider them to be uninformative

Local ones are just propaganda, imitation of media. We are dancing, we are doing something else, and so on (DPR village, 40-70)

 ü Ukranian TV channels: News One (reliable and fair), ZIK, 112, 1+1, 2+2, 5 Kanal, Inter, Ukraine, STB Internet resources used by participants to receive information: ü Russian – Yandex, VK, Odnoklassniki, Russian Spring, Antimaidanü      Foreign – Facebook (named by individual participants) ü Ukrainian – programs made by Anatoly Sharij              

The vast majority of respondents receive information from various sources, compare, analyze, and draw conclusions on their own. None of the available sources of information is fully reliable.

Anyway, the information war is not over yet. I do not support the idea of blindly trusting something. You can watch all of them and make own conclusions. This is my opinion (Luhansk, 40-70)

I am trying to somehow analyze, trying to compare. I have already stopped watching purely propaganda channels, both Ukrainian and Russian. “Donetsk region news”, the one in Kramatorsk, is a very good one. I advise this site. Guys are giving objective information. Ukrainian news of Donetsk in Kramatorsk (DPR village, 40-70)

 However, respondents say that Russian sources of information are more credible.

I am trusting Russian channels more. But still, it is easy to understand that are speaking in their favor always. But Ukrainian ones are even worse. Ukrainian ones are completely fantastic. Russian ones also lie. Our mentality is closer to Russian, that is why we think that they lie less (LPR village, 18-39)

Among the Ukrainian speakers, respondents like and partially trust Rabinovich, Murayev, Medvedchuk.

In general, the majority of participants have enough information, they say that they have access to any information that they are interested in. Challenge lies in not having enough of objective, truthful information. Respondents mentioned the following kinds of information they are lacking:

  • When war will end
  • When accession into Russia will happen
  • Activities of the OSCE

Also, some respondents mentioned that there is not enough information about the LPR on the Internet. They said that it is necessary to create separate web-resource and post information about various kinds of situations in the LPR there (news, events, changes, activities of the government).

Section 4 – Attitude towards political leaders

In the course of discussions, as expected, people expressed negative attitude towards Ukrainian leaders. Such leaders were named most frequently: Poroshenko, Groysman, Tymoshenko, Lutsenko, Parubiy, Yatsenyuk, Turchynov, Lyashko, Avakov.

They are considered to be leaders only there, in their gang. Tymoshenko came out of jail and is going to run for president. This is also not very clear. The alcoholic has promised that after choosing him as president war will end. Nothing has happened. Well, these are the simplest examples (Donetsk, 18-39)

They have done nothing for their people, it is obvious. They have become enemies for us because they are killing us. Therefore, I believe that such people should not be in power (LPR village, 40-70)

 Petro Poroshenko – the attitude to him is extremely negative, “Willy Wonka” abusing alcohol, the murderer, his words are always at odds with the actions. Poroshenko`s party is called the "party of war". Poroshenko's business is also the reason for negative evaluation as he didn't sell the factories. He is dependent, the puppet in the hands of the West. He is greedy, unprincipled, has negative attitude towards the population of the republics.

He said: this side is good, and there are subhumans, they are second-class citizens (DPR village, 40-70)

Yulia Tymoshenko – people express negative attitude towards her. They cannot understand her further plans and actions, call her "dark horse". They note that she goes to Moscow and tries reaching an agreement with Putin, but she still does not have any striking achievements. Although there is evidence that she flew to the United States. She is vile, unpredictable. She was already in power but has not shown herself as an effective leader. People are very offended by her words about the need to put the fence with barbed wire around Donbass.

Arsen Avakov – people express negative attitude to him, calling him "bandit", "leader of troops that are killing us". People are afraid of possible further development of Avakov`s career.

We rather have Poroshenko. Avakov is more rigid, and he has institutions behind his back. He is one of those ardent people, who are against Donbass, who support mopping-up operations. He supports different methods that will harm Donbass (DPR village, 40-70)

Viktor Medvedchuk – people express positive or neutral attitude to him. People say that he is "power behind the throne", Putin`s friend, a dark horse. He is courageous and he is the link between Russia and Ukraine. People mentioned his wife who used to be the host of "X-factor". He took part in prisoner exchanges and contributed to this exchange. Participants expressed hope for improvement and further solution of a situation if Medvedchuk and other oppositional leaders will come to the power.

Attitude to Medvedchuk is more or less positive. I believe that he is the person who can find compromises with Russia and also here during negotiations. He is part of the negotiation group in Minsk. I think that he is still able to do something (Donetsk, 18-39)

People expressed negative attitude to all pro-regime parties – People's Front, Union "Self Reliance" and even The Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc.

Furthermore Shufrych, Murayev, Rabinovich and Chervonenko are considered to be more adequate. They are thought to be people who want to save Ukraine and they have no blood on their hands. Political parties “Opposition Bloc”, “For life” and “Our Land” receive positive evaluation.

I would give preference to Rabinovich. Even though he is a Jew, he speaks so well. I do not know. I like what he is saying. If he really came to power and did what he promises to do, then we would live great, we would live like in Israel (Donetsk, 40-70)

Murayev is pro-Russian, he says smart things, it's nice to listen to him, but he will not be allowed to do anything (Luhansk, 18-39)

Respondents noted that there is no political force that will be able to stop the conflict and at the same time effectively protect the interests of Donbass residents. Opposition (Rabinovich, Boyko, Murayev, Medvedchuk, Kolesnikov, Dobkin, Vilkul, Kernes) has the potential and they can become such a force. At the same time, some participants noted that the administrative resource and law enforcement agencies will contribute to unfair elections, so the chances of the opposition to come to power are very small.

The majority of respondents have positive attitude towards the leaders of the Russian Federation. The most positive attitude is towards Putin.

Volodymyr Putin – people express positive attitude towards him. They called him an effective president, a great man, Russia's hope, the guardian of its stability and greatness. He has raised rating of Russia on the world stage. He is smart, active, energetic, athletic, sober in all meanings of this word. He loves his country with all his heart. He develops the army, scientific and technical potential, protects the interests of the population. Some respondents say that Putin should solve the problems of Donbass in a more decisive way. Negative references were connected with the lack of an effective fighting against corruption, having the gap in standards of living and well-being between Moscow and other regions, and the unsuccessful pension reform.

Putin is such a bright star in Russian history. We need to appreciate and cherish him, to help him live and lead longer. As everything will stop when he will be gone (Luhansk, 40-70)

 He is probably the only president on this planet who is the real president and one loved by his people. I think people treat him even better than they treated Iosif Vissarionovich. People really love him and respect him (Donetsk, 40-70)

Of course, Putin is the guarantee of stability for Russia

 (Luhansk, 40-70)

I have a very good attitude to him. He is a good president. He stands up for his people, for youngsters. He has very good programmes. I like all I see and hear about him (Donetsk, 40-70)

He is stable. He helped the country to start thriving. Any country would be happy to have such president right now (Luhansk, 40-70)

He is a good president for his country. He loves people. And he is a good president. I think that he should be a bit more rigid in his external policy. He should be more harsh in his answers to Ukraine and to England. But he is doing a lot for his country as president. He really loves his country (Donetsk, 40-70)

Diplomacy is on a good level. He is the world scale president. He is the leader, just leader. And people would follow him (Donetsk, 40-70)

He is stability for his country, for Russia. This is a stable country, and he is stable. If you compare will previous leaders, he is definitely smart and responsive politician (Donetsk, 40-70)

Well, Russia is a great power, actually. And as President for his people, he's doing great. And he will always protect his people, and he showed this to us... There was Victory Parade, he has shown that he is doing a good job, and showed what he has. That is, he showed that he can, basically, protect his country (Donetsk, 18-39)

He is a diplomat, a very competent politician. In other words, he is the face of the state. And a beautiful face of the state (Donetsk, 18-39)

Putin is a strong president. The whole world is afraid of him. That why of course we lean toward Russia more. Because he is a strong president, that never humiliates himself, he is always reserved. And he defends interests of his country (LPR village, 18-39)

He is the best person and best leader ever. Every country should have such a leader and then there will be no wars. The whole planet would have a peaceful life (DPR village, 18-39)

After all these events here, the credibility of Putin has strengthened a lot. Because we are really thankful to him for all support, all humanitarian aid, for everything. Every his word has much value and responsibility (DPR village, 18-39)

Russia thrives. They have industry and everything. Now North is thriving, Far East is thriving (DPR village, 18-39)

Not only Russia appreciates him. The whole world is talking about him. People value him, listen to him (Luhansk, 18-39)

He helps Russia to get up off the knees (DPR village, 40-70)

The majority of participants did not change their attitude to Putin. They say that he is a diplomat who withstands all attacks of opponents with dignity. He is a worthy leader and an effective president. Only some participants noted that they feel a slight disappointment about the lack of more vigorous and concrete actions of Putin on the situation in the Donbas. But they still feel the commitment of the President of the Russian Federation and his desire to help the population of the DPR and LPR, if there is an urgent need.

We here are a bit upset with him, of course. He did not take us. But it is good that he is keeping us under his protection. He will not let anyone hurt us. If Ukraine will start an offensive, then Russian troops will enter (Donetsk, 18-39)

The overwhelming majority of the participants of the discussion have a negative attitude towards the US leaders. They call them corrupt, dishonest descendants of “pirates” who defend only their own interests and achieve their goals by any means. The US presence always leads to wars (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan).

Trump, McCain, Obama, Theresa May – they were named among the American leaders.

Younger respondents called Trump a cheerful guy with a funny hairdo. They mentioned his statements about a fence on the border with Mexico.

Some participants noted that they distinguish the US and the EU and have different attitudes towards these institutions. Although, the attitude is negative towards both of them. America is considered to be a leader, the EU – subordinates, vassals. People said that Merkel, Hollande and Macron are American puppets.

Merkel was mentioned as one of the real leaders of the EU. Participants said that Germany dominated in the EU and Merkel is trying to be friends with Russia and the United States, protecting the interests of her own country.

Tries to sit on two chairs. Trying to please Putin and trying to please Trump (DPR village, 18-39)

Topic about Yanukovych arose rather spontaneously at the beginning of all discussions. The attitude to him is negative, people accuse him of treason.

He is a traitor. He betrayed his people, abandoned them and saved his life. And if he was like Zakharchenko, there would be no war, probably. They just solved it, figured it out somehow. The thing is that Yanukovych is a coward. I think a lot of people would agree with it. People will not tolerate him (Donetsk, 40-70)

He didn't do anything to me personally. I had a good life. It was possible to buy something on credit. We went to Alushta on vacation almost every year. We were redecorating apartment, making purchases. Life was good when he was president (Donetsk, 40-70)

He was the face of the country; he should have stood there till death. Whatever happened, he had to stand there and lead the country. And so... Oh, sorry, my milk boiled over. That is, the President should not abandon his people, otherwise, it is not his people anymore. So how can we treat him? He abandoned us (Donetsk, 18-39)

He gave up not one single person, not two people, he gave up the whole state. This cannot be forgiven (LPR village, 40-70)

Although people mentioned that during times of Yanukovych they felt stability, had good income, had chance to plan their future.

Section 5 – Reaction on the most resonant events

            It was important to identify the reaction of respondents on the most resonant events that took place in the DPR and LPR during the discussions. Various points of view on elimination of the leaders of the republics were recorded:

  • The part of respondents considers Ukrainian secret services to be responsible for the elimination of Motorola and Givi. The goal was to remove strong leaders, destabilize the situation in the republics, and spread panic among the population.
  • Other part of participants noted that Motorola and Givi could have been eliminated by their henchmen. The reason – it was difficult to reach an agreement with these people during more peaceful times. They got used to strong-arm tactics as the method of solving problems, and this led to conflicts.
  • Some respondents believe the reason for the elimination of Motorola and Givi was struggling for zones of influence.

Opinions of respondents about the elimination of Zakharchenko were also divided:

  • Struggle for power
  • Elimination was done by Ukrainian secret services. The reason – he was an effective leader, a decent competitor in the elections. Majority of citizens of DPR and LPR would support him, the protégé of Kiev would have no chance to win.

Givi, Motorola, their henchmen did it, it was struggling for power, but with Zakharchenko the situation is ambiguous. Ukraine could eliminate him much earlier and in a much easier way. All the time he was appearing in public (Luhansk, 40-70)

  • Elimination was done by the Ukrainian special services with the assistance of foreign intelligence services and someone from Zakharchenko's circle who was blackmailed or bribed
  • Elimination was done by Moscow (expressed indirectly), because he was more adamant, a field commander who was not used to compromises. Pushilin is more diplomatic and flexible, and this is what the Russian Federation needs if there is an intention to give DPR / LPR back to Ukraine

The death of Zakharchenko is considered to be the great tragedy for the whole Donbass (the individual respondents almost cried). Respondents said that there is no worthy substitute. He was brave and reliable, was not hiding behind backs, and was a real patriot. He provided stability and faith in changes for the better. Even the citizens of LPR share this point of view because they thought he was an effective leader.

And he was always in front. After he died I noticed that he was always alone and he always moved all guys behind, all his guards were behind. They all were walking behind and was always walking in front. Always (Donetsk, 40-70)

This man was where he should have been. Now I don't even know. We had at least some stability, we got used to it. He knew this region, he did not leave us, did not betray (Donetsk, 40-70)

But somehow we have heroes dying, well, not heroes, but bosses. In Ukraine, these guys are dying. None of the generals have died, none was blown up, none was undermined. And here everyone who receives some respect is being killed (Donetsk, 40-70)

He was eliminated not as person, not as politic, but as… Not even as icon. He was the symbol of all hopes of people that something good will happen soon. Probably he was not making decisions, and most likely he did not. But he was controlling everything. And we were treating him as a person who will take us to a better future. And now we lost these hopes. And we lost this better future (Donetsk, 18-39)

We were very jealous. We were really jealous in a good way that they have such a leader. In Lugansk, unfortunately, we have Plotnitsky and others. They are not leaders. And especially with such dirty past as Plotnitsky has. He is not a leader. (Luhansk, 40-70)

I never lost hope that we will unite and Zakharchenko will be our leader (LPR village, 18-39)

Respondents also noted that information about Zakharchenko still being alive is spreading among the population.

Some respondents also said that the death of Motorola and Givi is a tragedy because they considered them true patriots, worthy soldiers and legends of their time.

Some respondents note that the Ukrainian special services are present and are quite effective in the DPR and LPR. They can really destabilize the situation, and they are already dealing with this issue. Also, according to some respondents, agents can trade on growing discontent of the citizens of the DPR and LPR and this can lead to another uprising. Right now discontent is growing, as people do not see positive changes.

As it recently happened in Ukraine: two hundred dissatisfied people came and made a coup in Ukraine. And what do we have here? Here at Lugansk republic every year people become more and more dissatisfied with the situation here. Displeased with authorities and with the situation. For four years we were trying to find something about what businesses are working. But all information is about how we here in LPR are singing and dancing. Have you seen any other kind of information in news? There is nothing else. This is even funny, you know. We are dancing and singing, having a very fun life (Luhansk, 40-70)

Another part of the respondents doubts that Ukrainian special services can seriously destabilize the situation in the DPR/ LPR.

Nothing can change fundamentally, they can only do some minor mischiefs, like undermining bridge or post (Luhansk, 18-39)

They're just like mosquito bites – they cause small troubles (LPR village, 40-70)

The majority of respondents, both older and younger, show their positive attitude to the annexation of the Crimea to Russia. However, they emphasize that they do not have the opportunity to go on vacation to the Crimea, but they used to constantly visit the peninsula before. Most of participants were waiting in anticipation that the region will repeat the Crimean scenario. At the moment, these their hopes have diminished.

We dreamed that we will be next. But somehow this turned out to be a bit different (Luhansk, 40-70)

As to Crimea, I can say that I think people made their choice. They want to live in their home country, which has been their home country for centuries. Therefore, I have a positive attitude to this (Donetsk, 18-39)

Crimea was historically Russian (DPR village, 18-39)

We can only envy them. We hoped so much that we will have the same (Luhansk, 18-39)

If not Russia, they would have been killed by Banderites and Tatars. I'm happy for the Crimeans. They returned to their family (DPR village, 40-70)

 It was easy to feel that most participants were disappointed that they are still not part of Russia (as Crimea). They do not understand how they differ from the residents of Crimea. At the same time, they are justifying Russia. They are stressing the fact that right now Russia simply does not have the ability to annex DPR and LPR, but this issue is among urgent and important for the government of the Russian Federation. Resentment and disappointment about the actions of Russia is mostly common for younger participants.

Roughly speaking, they got everything for free, I mean the Crimea. It would be better for Russia to give us the same kind of attention. This is for people in Donetsk in the first place. Crimea – well, it is there and that is all (Donetsk, 40-70)

At the very beginning, we still believed, hoped for something. Everyone thought that we would become part of Russia, but now we see that Russia does not really need us (Donetsk, 18-39)

It really hurts, we were just used. That's all (Donetsk, 18-39)

Sanctions are strangling. If Russia will now say again that recognizes us, new sanctions will be applied. Russia will not benefit from losing its position on the world stage. Therefore, Russian does not need us, but they do what they can (DPR village, 18-39)

Putin just does not have the chance to take us, there is no way for this (LPR village, 40-70)

Some respondents noted that Russia does not need Donbass. The enterprises are not attractive, because they are not modernized and are unprofitable. The labor force has left, there are only pensioners. There is no sense to subsidize another region, while the Russian Federation may suffer even more when the new sanctions will be applied. Annexing only parts of the regions also does not make sense.

Russia is not interested in Donbass, because everything that was needed was already done. Taking lots of pensioners – it is not interesting for them at all and does not make sense. And the majority are people of middle age or older (Donetsk, 40-70)

Right now Russia is not ready to annex. How can it take not the whole region but just part of it? And we are now not the whole region, but just part of it. How can they take one part and leave others? (Donetsk, 40-70)

According to the majority of respondents, the blockade made by Ukraine has caused significant losses. Participants mentioned the following negative effects of the blockade:

  • The collapse of the economy, the closure of most businesses
  • Loss of market for selling coal and metal, reduction of wages for miners and metallurgists
  • Disruption of integrated heavy industry (plants were linked, they cooperated during manufacturing of specific products)
  • Increase in prices
  • Breakdown of the banking system
  • Corruption at checkpoints
  • Disruption of the railway connection
  • Shakhtinsky bridge is closed for population, at same time contraband is transported across the bridge (LPR)

 Part of the participants from LPR noted that the blockade does not influence them much. Trading continues but in an illegal way. Smuggling is rampant. But people cannot name the terrible consequences associated with smuggling.

Some participants from the DPR also said that they did not feel the blockade. At first, it was a little hard, but then the number of goods from Belarus and Russia increased, so there were no negative consequences of the blockade. Some respondents note that although there is no shortage of goods, the quality of food is very low compared to similar Ukrainian products.

Some respondents from the DPR said that the blockade has caused damage primarily to Ukraine itself:

  • Loss of Donbass as a market for selling manufactured products
  • Having no gas and coal, the population is forced to cut down the trees in order to have heating in the winter

I know that to have some heating people have cut almost all trees there. People do not know how to spend winter. Gas was taken away, there is no coal. But people need to get through winter somehow (Donetsk, 40-70)

Residents of LPR stress that they did not notice the presence of the Russian military. If you see people in uniform on the streets, then it is the local militia, representatives of the Commandant's office, security or other units. In any case, they are not the military personnel of the Russian Federation. Only some respondents noted that the Russian military is present, but their presence is not noticeable and is not felt.

Section 6 – Evaluation of possible scenarios of reintegration

At the end of the discussion, participants were asked to assess possible scenarios of the course of events. The following estimates were recorded:

  1. Joining Russia by DPR and LPR on any terms and with any status is the most desirable scenario for respondents

I believe that we have no other way, only to Russia, especially as Russia has  federative structure, we can also be one of the subjects of the Federation, the Donbass (Luhansk, 40-70)

  1. DPR and LPR having the status of federations and being the part of Ukraine according to the terms of the Minsk agreements is also an acceptable scenario for some respondents. Some respondents consider this option to be the most realistic, although most participants believe that Minsk agreements are very unstable, vague, unfinished and non-working, unviable
  • The declaration of independence of the DPR and LPR, the creation of a new state of Novorussia. People noted that they should be independent because the results of the referendum had clearly confirmed this desire and this position, which is shared by the vast majority of the population. But at the same time, it is noted that complete independence and lack of assistance from Russia will not contribute to the development of the republics. Some respondents believe that all territories located on the right side of the Dnieper should become part of Novorussia and Russia should seize them and unite them

Of course, it would be good if Russia will take all eight regions. Or nine, or how many of them there? That will be Novorussia. They should take everything along the length Dnieper river (DPR village, 18-39)

The participants were aware of such points of the Minsk agreements (it is worth mentioning that only some participants were aware of the most of the points, the majority of them knew only about the special status):

  • Special status (autonomy or federation type) for the DPR and LPR as parts of Ukraine
  • Complete cessation of hostilities
  • Restoration of borders
  • Withdrawal of troops from the demarcation line
  • Amnesty for those who took part in hostilities
  • Removal of roadblocks
  • Prisoner exchange (“all for all”)
  • Holding the elections
  • Introduction of “people's militia”

The participants of the discussion noted that the following changes/actions are necessary to settle the conflict:

  • A complete change of power in Ukraine can become the basis for Minsk agreements to start working and for settlement of the conflict
  • Making amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine (especially regarding the administrative and territorial structure)
  • Granting of special status with the ability to make their own laws
  • Cancellation of the Minsk agreements, development and adoption of a new document on the truce between the LPR / DPR and Ukraine (was named by individual respondents)
  • Involvement of the public on both sides for a more adequate and effective solution of the issue
  • The destruction of Ukraine (was named by individual respondents)
  • Recognition of the republics and the presence of Russian military forces along all border between the republics and Ukraine
  • Granting official status to Russian language
  • Cancellation of the official statement – “Russia is the enemy”

I do not want my child to be taught at school that Russia is the enemy. I don't want to be shot for wearing the ribbon of Saint George. I don't want fascists to receive recognition. And I do not want to celebrate Memorial Day on 8th of May instead of Victory Day on 9th of May (DPR village, 40-70)

  • Deployment of Russian troops to the republics

That is the example of peacekeepers, those that Ukraine wants to bring here. If Russian troops will come here, war will immediately stop. Because no one wants to have war against Russia. Neither US, nor the EU, nor Ukraine. If they would come here then we would have peace, prosperity and stability, and we would be able to make plans for the future (DPR village, 18-39)

Some respondents read the law on the reintegration of Donbass on the Internet. They consider it to be ineffective and offensive. Its implementation will lead to repressions. Also, people are outraged by the loss of voting rights in the elections.

Some respondents noted that right now there are no conditions under which they are ready to return to Ukraine. Many people died, there is much resentment and hatred among the population, so the best way – secession from Ukraine. Also, they do not want to return to Ukraine, because they will have to work off all the external debts to IMF that the illegitimate government of Ukraine now has. Another part of the participants named the following conditions under which they will agree to return to Ukraine:

  • Cancellation of nationalistic Banderite ideology
  • Resumption of cooperation between Ukraine and Russia on all issues – Ukraine should stop treating Russia as an enemy

Among the fears associated with returning to Ukraine, ones that bother respondents the most, the following were named:

  • Physical violence

Giving us to Ukraine is simply giving us for mauling death. This is execution. This is not even just death. This is execution (DPR village, 18-39)

  • Arbitrariness (people did not specify from what side exactly)
  • Reprisals by Ukrainians with nationalist aspirations, mopping-up operations

We are afraid of repressions of Banderites who will come here. When they came here they said: “And these are your houses? Our sheds are even better than your houses. Where are your palaces?”. When they came here they were promised to have own slaves and our homes. It means that we should be their slaves. They came with absolutely different ideology (Luhansk, 40-70)

  • Sending to camps and prisons

Especially if they will still have this government down there. You understand they have built prisons and camps for us. Every person that lives here, even a child, is separatist for Ukrainians. And if we will be returned to Ukraine, every person will be prosecuted according to their laws. Every person will go to jail. No matter you took part in war or not, are you a pensioner, young man, young lady. (LPR village, 18-39)

The concentration camps for us are already prepared. They will be taking children separately, to fix their brains the way they need. The ones who are very inspired with separatist`s ideas will be eliminated Those are not strongly influenced by separatist ideology will be re-educated in concentration camps. And everyone will lose right to vote for ten years and so on (Luhansk, 18-39)

  • The stigma of “enemy”, vigilantism
  • Seizure of property

These morons will take all our farms, our chicken, our pigs. They will take everything in our village. All this Ukraine is always hungry, they will take everything (DPR village, 40-70)

The vast majority of respondents noted that the DPR and LPR are not able to defeat the Ukrainian army on their own.

They have NATO there, there they are well trained. And we have absolutely nothing. Our guys were wearing sneakers, and they still are wearing sneakers. We can see what they're wearing. In torn pants, in sneakers. We do not have such equipment, we do not have such weapons. We do not have such capacities. And the roadblocks? They were sitting and still keep sitting in the dugouts. We have absolutely nothing. So, if we will not receive help, then we all will die here (DPR village, 18-39)

Ukraine is able to gain control of the DPR and LPR under the following conditions, but this will not happen, because all the roles are already scripted, and Ukraine actually benefits from this conflict:

  • Financial and other types of assistance from the United States
  • If Russia will stop providing assistance and distance itself from republics

While Russia will be supporting us, it would be hardly possible. Some kind of movement can happen, but not likely. But if Russia will turn away, then it will happen very quickly (Donetsk, 40-70)

Participants of discussion express their hopes that in the situation of escalation of conflict Russia will be supporting DPR and LPR. They note that without the help of Russia situation will be extremely difficult for them in all aspects. And especially – confronting Ukraine and the United States on their own (at same time no one saw Russian military)

We are completely dependent on them, both militarily and economically (Donetsk, 18-39)

Thirty kilometers behind Uspenka is Russian equipment, and they are constantly changing it. Now there are “Grad”, “Uragan”, and there are resupply vehicles also. And sometimes there, 30 kilometers from Uspenka, you can see tanks. So it means they would not allow it (DPR village, 40-70)

Russia pursues its interests. They won't let us be torn apart. Rostov region is close, all borders are close (Donetsk, 40-70)

If you stop gas and oil supply, our Republic will simply die in six months, that is all. We're nothing without them. We would have not survived without Russia (LPR village, 40-70)

DPR and LPR are not able to survive on their own, says the majority of respondents. Some participants expressed concerns that support given by the Russian Federation may lead to increased military action and to a full-fledged war.

It should be noted that participants confuse realistic scenarios of course of events with the desired scenarios. They named the following ones to be realistic, although their possibility can be questioned:

  • Issuance of Russian passports to all residents of the DPR and LPR

In case of some conflict situations, Russia is able to say that 50% of citizens are citizens of Russia and that they are protecting the people of Russia (Luhansk, 40-70)

  • The unification of the LPR and the DPR, having joint elections, the solving the issue regarding integration into Russian Federation
  • Further sluggish continuation of the conflict (according to some respondents), the continuation of the conflict for 20-25 years

Younger respondents do not see the conditions and the possibility of settlement of the conflict in the next 5 years. Perhaps the situation will change after the elections in Ukraine and the victory of the new opposition forces.

The majority of participants noted that the settlement of the conflict in the Donbass region depends on Russia and the United States, Putin and other world leaders (Trump, Merkel, Hollande, Macron).

Therefore, when the leaders of Russia and the United States will find common interests and will be able to reach some agreement. And if one of these common interests will be the settlement of this situation, only then something can change (Donetsk, 18-39)

Some participants noted that the settlement of the military conflict depends on Ukraine as well, although only partially.

The participants of the discussions noted that despite all the insults they have positive attitude to the majority of Ukrainians. The negative attitude towards the authorities and nationalist Ukrainians exists. Also, there is negative attitude towards the Ukrainian military. Especially those who started military service under contract.

Yes, we treat normal citizens like brothers. But if this Ukrainian is Banderite, or member of Right Sector, or he is from the ZSU. Then how should we treat him, when he is a murderer (LPR village, 18-39)

Individual respondents noted that they have seen some YouTube videos that show how the Ukrainians are teaching children to hate Russians and the citizens of the republics, and so the reconciliation is rather impossible.

You know, I saw on the Internet, on YouTube, as now in Ukraine, during the hostilities, they are teaching children the art of war.  This starts when a child turns six years old. They're already giving the assault rifle to a child. They teach him that Russian citizen is an ... enemy, vatnik and so on (LPR village, 18-39)

 Also, those residents of the DPR and LPR who have lost loved ones or homes are unlikely to forgive Ukrainians, will not be able to live in one country with them.

Ten-storey building with two entrances. The shell fell. In one moment the whole facade of the house from the first to the tenth floor (everything: balconies, plastic windows), everything ended up inside. The first, the second floor walls were destroyed. What attitude to Ukraine can I have after this? Shaking hands with them? I am lucky that none of my dear people have died. And what should people who lost someone do? Houses are completely destroyed. And now, we need to smile to Ukraine? I think this is end already (Donetsk, 40-70)

Those who have lost something or someone will not get used to it. Those who did not suffer much may vote for the return (Donetsk, 40-70)

Too much blood has been shed from both sides. You understand that if the border between us, between LPR and Ukraine, will open, then people from that side will be coming here pretending to be civilians and no one knows what will be happening here. The same thing is with our members of the militia, those who have lost their families and everything else. They would be going to Kiev. They will be looking for Avakov (Luhansk, 18-39)

Some respondents feel sorry for Ukrainians – “They made this reckless move with this Maidan, ruined their country, tore us apart. We'll still survive, but they ... So, I feel sorry for them, feel sorry about their narrow-mindedness

Section 7 – General conclusions

  • Participants of the discussion put much of the blame for starting the conflict on the USA. They say that the US confronts Russia and tries to weaken it by any means in order to achieve world domination
  • Viktor Yanukovych also at fault for the onset of the conflict – he has not shown the political will and did not nip the conflict in the bud. Instead, he betrayed his people and ran away
  • Russia is, rather, not guilty in the onset of the conflict, it is forced to defend its interests, to confront the United States. The Russian Federation also protects the interests of the population of Donbass from “Banderites with nationalist aspirations”
  • Living standards of the majority of participants have dropped. The non-recognition of the republics leads to the absence of the banking system, legally binding instruments, It also makes free movement impossible.
  • Low utility prices, affordable cost of public transport are the main advantages of living in the republics
  • The most critical among all negative changes that occurred in Ukraine in recent years are the following – the increase of utility prices, the increase in unemployment and the departure of a large number of Ukrainians abroad to earn money, complete distrust of the government
  • Trade, public catering and utility services enterprises predominate among all the enterprises that have adjusted to the conditions existing during the conflict
  • The activity of Zakharchenko as of the leader of the Republic is evaluated very positively. People are very upset because of his death. They hoped that the DPR and the LPR will unite and that he will be head of this union
  • Republican authorities of LPR are evaluated as rather inefficient
  • The mayor of Luhansk is evaluated as an effective leader who is doing exactly what he should do and contributes to positive changes
  • The majority of participants noted that now it is rather safe to live in DPR and LPR
  • Respondents noted that crime level has decreased in the republics
  • The vast majority of respondents communicates with relatives and friends that live in Ukraine, and a large number of informants regularly visits Ukraine
  • The vast majority of pensioners living in the republics receive pensions in Ukraine
  • The desired level of income is from 25 to 50 thousand rubles per family member
  • The most popular sources of getting information mentioned are Russian TV channels and Russian social networks (VK, Odnoklassniki)
  • The attitude towards the political leaders of Ukraine is extremely negative
  • The most positive attitude is towards the representatives of the opposition forces – Rabinovich, Murayev, Medvedchuk
  • The attitude towards the leaders of the US and the EU is negative
  • The attitude towards Putin is extremely positive, he is considered to be an effective leader, the best President who develops his country in every way and protects the interests of his people
  • Now there is no political force in Ukraine that can resolve the conflict and at the same time protect the interests of the residents of the DPR and LPR
  • They do not have a final opinion regarding the death of the commander and the head of the Republic. The elimination of military commanders (Motorola and Givi) and the head of the Republic (Zakharchenko) is thought to be made by the special services of Ukraine, or there was the shadow of the Kremlin. Also, these people could have been eliminated by their henchmen.
  • Most informants noted that the blockade by Ukraine has led to the collapse of the economy of the republics
  • The majority of respondents feel that the Russian Federation betrayed Donbass, but they strongly justify V. Putin, who now simply does not have the opportunity to annex Donbass
  • Almost all participants support the annexation of Crimea and even envy the inhabitants of the peninsula
  • None of the respondents noted that they feel the presence of the Russian military on the territory of the republics
  • The most acceptable scenario is the republics` accession into the Russian Federation
  • Another acceptable solution (though to a lesser extent) is granting the status of federations within Ukraine. But that is possible only after the full implementation of the Minsk agreements – a complete cessation of hostilities, withdrawal of troops, amnesty for all, prisoner exchange, holding the elections
  • Creating of a new state (Novorussia) and recognition of it was named as an acceptable solution, though but the patronage of the Russian Federation will be still needed
  • The main conditions for resolving the conflict are: the complete change of power in Ukraine, the refusal to forcibly promote the nationalistic Banderite ideology, the renewal of all ties with Russia, and granting official status to Russian language making it the state language
  • The republics are, rather, unable to defeat Ukraine, Ukraine is able to defeat the republics by military means with the support of the United States
  • Without the help of Russia, DPR and LPR will not be able to survive in any case
  • The conflict is likely to be frozen or sluggish for at least the next 5 years
  • Reconciliation with Ukraine is rather impossible, people were killed, houses were destroyed, it is difficult to forgive
  • The attitude to Ukrainians is normal. The negative attitude is towards the nationalists, the military, the participants of the ATO, the most negative attitude is to the representatives of the national illegitimate government