An Essay by Christian Neef. Die letzten drei Jahre lebte und arbeitete er wieder in Moskau. Nun geht er in den Ruhestand. Does anyone still remember Donetsk? Europe, it seems, has long since forgotten the place. And yet there's still a war going on there -- one that has lasted longer than Hitler's campaign against the Soviet Union. Soldiers and civilians on both sides die there almost daily. On Sunday, Donetsk was back in the headlines because of elections held in the self-proclaimed Peoples' Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk. The European Union and the United States aren't recognizing the vote because it represents a violation of the Minsk agreement.
Kiev has described it as a farce, saying the elections have nothing to do with the will of the people. And Russia? Moscow is once again trying to convey the impression that it nothing to do with the ballot. But Sunday's election does in fact deserve attention, because this time they were less a provocation than the product of political negligence.
It goes back to Aug. When he and a handful of supporters entered a cafe that evening just around the corner from the government's headquarters, an explosive device went off above the entrance. There is much to learn from what happened in the wake of the Donetsk assassination. First and foremost: Russia doesn't particularly care about honesty when it comes to its dealings with the people of the eastern Ukrainian separatist republics. After the explosion, Moscow -- which always seems to view offense and the best form of defense -- immediately accused Kiev of murder.
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The elimination of Zakharchenko, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, meant that Ukraine was transforming the hostilities in the Donass region into a "bloody war. But that never happened. And soon, there was no longer any talk of the alleged saboteurs either. There is now broad consensus that Zakharchenko was either killed by Russian forces or by people from within his own camp. Insiders in Moscow say that for the months before his assassination, he had been under a kind of house arrest. In an hours-long meeting with a high-ranking Western diplomat, which would prove to be his last with a foreigner, Zakharchenko said he was soon planning to step down from his post.
By that point, however, he no longer had things under control. As with Zakharchenko, a number of high-ranking separatists and commanders have either been sidelined or toppled in recent years. At the end of last year, it was the turn of Igor Plotnisky, the leader of the neighboring Luhansk People's Republic. He wasn't killed, but he fled to Russia. They were supposed to be guarantors of peace in eastern Ukraine.
It was a role they never lived up to. Instead, they did as they pleased and relied on criminal methods to secure their power. And all of it was accepted by Moscow in order to maintain their story that local representatives of the people governed in Donetsk and Luhansk.source site
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Then came the assassination. Even Putin's own people can't seriously believe in the idea of a Kiev-backed conspiracy. Particularly given what has happened since: an ongoing purge of the separatist leadership in Donetsk. The deputy head of govenment was arrested and people close to him left the republic "for security reasons. A special commission is now examining "illegal" expropriations said to have been initiated by the minister. Among other things, he is said to have confiscated the property of a large Donetsk merchant market with armed fighters last year, embezzling million rubles in the process.
Even the markets and companies "nationalized" by Zakharchenko are now being returned to their rightful owners -- possibly even the Ukrainian supermarket chain that suddenly belonged to his wife. Specialists with Moscow's domestic intelligence service, the FSB, are investigating further cases of corruption, and armed separatist units have been placed under Russian control. Taken together, the steps would seem to confirm longstanding claims made by Igor Girkin, the officer -- suspected of being a member of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence service -- who started the war in Donetsk in He would later become "defense minister" of the People's Republic of Donetsk.
Girkin claims that "bandits" took power in both republics, and that the Donbass region is "simply getting robbed. Girkin claims Moscow is to blame. He says Putin's Donbass respresentatives sucked the region dry and brought the most important specialists to Russia, thus doing serious damage to the economy. He claims Moscow never had the intention of turning the areas into independent countries and that they were just using them as levers in the dispute with Kiev.
I don't know if I knocked any of them off, I wasn't a bad shot so I expect I did, but it was nothing to be proud of. It was either them or you. You could hear them playing this bugle, telling their units what to do.
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Then for about 10 minutes it went quiet and then they started firing again and playing their bugles. As you got into the valley, you heard what is known as a burp gun firing over your heads — the Chinese had what was known as a lenient policy. In the dark hours they marched us across the Imjin. They said take off your shoes, trousers, pants and carry them across the river.
We then had them dry to put on the other side. They were thinking of themselves as much as us, which was good of them. It took the defeated Glosters, over of them, six weeks to get up to Chung Sung on the Yalu river where they were were held for two-and-a-half years until the Armistice was signed. There was no such thing as a camp; the Chinese commandeered a village, chucked all the Koreans out.
We went into their mud huts, had no bedding or anything. We had rice, it was unwashed. It was like that for ages. In this camp we were about in this village. We always knew who was doing well down the front, whether it was the Chinese or the United Nations. If it was the Chinese doing alright we all got extra tobacco or extra sugar, if they weren't we wouldn't get none.
It doesn't go away. We didn't know how small the country was. When we got there, it was like living in Woking. Tiny, little country. I was there for about 12 months really, and then they sent me home for the Coronation. I met the Battalion in Egypt after that.
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It was under the United Nations and they had to be stopped, and that's what we did. We would go out on patrol, and get mixed up with them on patrol. I lost one of my mates. Cpl Williams, I will never forget that name. We met all these Chinese, and we had a bit of a skirmish with them and Taffy never came back. It was a shame, I never forgot him.
Arthur was mentioned in Despatches after going back to try and find Williams and in the process was wounded in the arm by a grenade. The loss of his friend is something Arthur has never been able to forget. I think we got the better of the enemy in the end. I think we won the day except we lost one man, one of them bad days. There were so many things to be aware of, looking for the enemy, that you just carried on though. Arthur worked for British Aerospace as a heating engineer after leaving the Army. He was a nice man.
The only thing is I regret not finding Cpl Williams. I think about it regularly. We eventually got to Pusan now known as Busan , and the smell of human waste used in the fields as manure was overwhelming. We got on a train and headed north, straight into the trenches. Poorly dug out, on the line.
On the very first night the Americans decided to do strategic bombing about half a mile in front of us.