Ukraina

5 ting du må vite etter 5 år med konflikt

Etter fem år med konflikt i Øst-Ukraina er 5,2 millioner mennesker rammet av krisen og 3,5 millioner har behov for humanitær hjelp. Men resten av verden ser ut til å ha glemt krisen fullstendig.

Her er fem ting du bør vite om konflikten i Ukraina:

#1 Trosser farer for å se familien

I april 2014 brøt det ut konflikt øst i Ukraina, som siden har vært delt i to: på den ene siden regjerer myndighetene og på den andre regjerer ikke-statlige grupper. Det som tidligere var ett samfunn er nå splittet av en grense lenger enn avstanden mellom Oslo og Stockholm. Langs den minelagte frontlinjen står fareskiltene tett i tett og advarer mot udetonerte eksplosiver, og ved de fem kontrollpostene deler piggtrådgjerder grensa i to.

Hver måned krysser rundt 1,1 millioner ukrainere frontlinjen. De trosser farer som bomber og landminer og risikerer livet for å besøke familie som bor på den andre siden, handle på markedet, skaffe viktige dokumenter eller oppsøke offentlige tjenester som helsehjelp.

Folk står i kø ved kontrollpostene i timevis, gjennom den kalde vinteren eller under stekende sol i sommermånedene. De fleste kontrollpostene mangler tilgang til drikkevann, toaletter og førstehjelp.

Konflikten i Øst-Ukraina

I 2013 begynte tusenvis av ukrainere å demonstrere, først i hovedstaden i Kiev og deretter i andre byer. Demonstrasjonene var drevet fram av støtten til EUs samarbeidsavtale og en sterk motstand mot regjeringens politikk, som i stor grad ble sett på som korrupt og at den krenket demokrati og rettssikkerhet.

Demonstrasjonene kulminerte i en rekke voldelige hendelser og de tragiske dødsfallene på mer enn 100 mennesker - både demonstranter og politi.

I Donbas, et tett befolket og tungt industrialisert område i Øst-Ukraina, som består av de to regionene Donetsk og Luhansk, var det blandede reaksjoner på hendelsene i Kiev og andre byer i Ukraina. Før konflikten startet bodde 6,6 millioner i Donbas, noe som utgjorde 15 prosent av Ukrainas totale befolkning, og genererte 16 prosent av landets bruttonasjonalprodukt.

Sikkerhetssituasjonen i Donbas ble raskt forverret og førte til at den ukrainske regjeringen mistet kontrollen over deler av regionene Donetsk og Luhansk, samtidig som det kom til væpnede kamper i området. Til tross for våpenhvileavtalen fra Minsk i 2015 (Minsk II), fortsetter kamphandlingene fortsatt.

Every day thousands of people, many of them elderly, have to cross the checkpoint between government controlled and non-government-controlled areas of Ukraine at Stanytsia Luhanska. The bridge is destroyed, making it impossible for cars to pass, forcing people to walk for several kilometres through no man’s land and wait for 3-4 hours to pass each way. 

For those who are unable to make the walk, Slavik is ready to offer transport for a small fee. He works at EECP every day.
“I use this wheelchair to transfer elderly people. They have the same problems: a small pension, and expensive medicines. There are many people. The elderly people constantly complain about life. They have to show up in person every month in order to receive their pension", says Slavik. 

Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/Norwegian Refugee Council.
Les billedteksten Hver måned krysser rundt 1,1 millioner ukrainere frontlinjen. De trosser farer som bomber og landminer og risikerer livet for å besøke familie som bor på den andre siden, handle på markedet, skaffe viktige dokumenter eller oppsøke offentlige tjenester som helsehjelp. Slavik tropper opp ved en av kontrollpostene hver dag og bistår med rullestol og trillehjelp mot en liten sum. Foto: Ingebjørg Kårstad/Flyktninghjelpen

#2 Over 3.300 sivile drept

Konflikten rammer sivilbefolkningen hardt. Over 3.300 har blitt drept og rundt 9.000 skadet siden den brøt ut i 2014. Over 50.000 boliger på begge sider av kontaktlinjen har blitt skadet eller ødelagt, i tillegg til skoler, sykehus og vannanlegg.

Fem år med kamper har etterlatt udetonerte eksplosiver spredt over enorme områder i konfliktsonen. Dette utgjør en stor fare for sivilbefolkningen, inkludert en halv million barn som bor ved frontlinjen. Det begrenser tilgangen deres til markeder og helsehjelp, og muligheten for å drive landbruk og sanke ved.

Ukraina er ett av landene i verden med flest dødsfall som følge av landminer og udetonerte eksplosiver. Siden begynnelsen av konflikten har det blitt registrert 924 dødsfall som følge av miner og udetonerte eksplosiver.

Many families have kept the shrapnels that damaged their homes. A visible reminder of the war many still hear the sounds of every night along the contact line. 
 
Liudmyla, 51 and Yurii Poleshko, 55, lives in the frontline village Zaitseve in Donetsk region. For the last three years they have been unable to find jobs and survive only owing to humanitarian assistance and relatives’ support. 

“We used to have levelled life. We did our own business. My wife owned a hairdressing salon, I was the owner of ventilation system control enterprise in nearby Horlivka (currently non-government controlled area). We were providing our services in several regions – from Luhansk to Zaporizhzhia in eastern Ukraine. However, the conflict, which came to our country in 2014, turned our life upside down. Initially, when the hostilities started, we tried to continue our work, but when the crossing point was set up in our village, we were urged to shut down all our business, because of limited access to that area. It was in August 2014. ”, - says Yurii Poleshko. 

Since the conflict outbreak, Zaitseve has become one of the hot spots of crossfire between conflicting parties. One part of the village is under Ukrainian Government control, another under de-facto authorities.  Despite the ceasefire agreement, the hostilities are still ongoing., Usually the shelling starts there, when it gets dark, sometimes the incidents happen in the daytime. At the streets you can hardly find its residents, people try not to come out unless it is absolutely necessary. Most of the windows in the houses are closed with plywood, firewood and shields. People use all possible means to protect themselves. Many residents left the settlement, mostly the elderly people remained. 

 “We felt abandoned. For a while it was no man’s land. In 2014 it was even difficult to bury someone in the settlement, because administratively the settlement was subordinating to non-government-controlled Horlivka”, recalls Yurii. 

“Initially we left the settlement in December 2014 after very heavy shelling, the whole night we were sitting in the basement. It was too stressful for us. For 8 months we were staying with relatives and friends.  Our friend even proposed to buy a house for us in Russia, but we refused, because there is nothing like home”, - says Yurii. 
“We cannot explain why we returned. We are probably too attached to the house. How could we leave all this? Yes, it is scary to hide in the basement. But when you come out from it you are home”, says Liudmyla. 

In 2016 Poleshko’s house was damaged by shrapnels. They could enter the house only through the window, because the door was curved by the explosion and could not open. The family repaired the house. However, when you enter the house, you can still see the shelling traces; holes in the windows, ceilings and walls.  
“I have nine years to wait before I can receive my pension. For three years we haven’t had any income. Now we are fully dependent on humanitarian assistance and our relatives”, - says Liudmyla. 

Recently, the Poleshko family started receiving cash for foodstuff from NRC. Thus, the family will be secure with food for five months during the cold season. 

“It is better to receive cash than to get in-kind assistance, because sometimes what you need is to buy the gas bottle before you can cook the food. Some people are on diet due to health issues, so they can buy food according to their own needs. For us such assistance is crucial. We are not pensioners yet. But we are vulnerable, because we cannot find the way to earn money. Psychologically it is difficult to depend on humanitarian assistance, as we used to be self-sufficient in the past”, - says Yurii.

Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/Norwegian Refugee CouncilPhoto: Ingebjørg Kårstad/Norwegian Refugee Council
Les billedteksten Mange innbyggere langs frontlinja beholder splintene som har truffet husene deres. Fremdeles hører de smellene hver eneste natt. Foto: Ingebjørg Kårstad/ Flyktninghjelpen

#3 Må ta umulige valg

Den vedvarende krisen har strukket folks ressurser til det ytterste. Familier har mistet levebrødet og ser ingen annen utvei enn å selge eiendelene sine og kutte drastisk ned på utgifter.

Den økonomiske nedgangen og høye arbeidsledigheten i denne delen av landet tvinger innbyggerne øst i Ukraina til å ta umulige valg, som å velge mellom å kjøpe mat, medisiner eller sende barna på skolen.

Dårlige sosiale tjenester og manglende tilgang til markedet rammer de mest utsatte, som eldre, enslige foreldre og folk med funksjonsnedsettelse. Over en million mennesker, inkludert folk som har flyktet fra hjemmene sine, har ikke tilstrekkelig tilgang til mat og trenger hjelp til å forsørge seg.

Iryna is 10 years old, and Liliia’s eldest daughter. She still remembers the night their house was hit. Iryna and her sibling all suffer from post-traumatic stress. It is hard to concentrate at school and she has nightmares and anxiety. “The main concern for me now is that the active phase of the war does not break out again. I am afraid that my house will be destroyed again. After all, we hear the sounds of shots every night,”says her mother Liliia. 

Background story:
Liliia Poturoieva is 39. She has experienced terrible events that completely changed the life of herself and her large family and left an indelible mark on everyone's soul. She lives in the frontline village of Verkhnia Vilkhova in Stanytsia Luhanska district, Luhansk region. 

Liliia has six children. The oldest is Oleksandr. He is 20. He lives separately from his parents and earns his own living. Ihor is 12. He is a shy and calm schoolboy, always ready to help parents with the housework. Her eldest daughter Iryna is 10. She is a schoolgirl and mother's main housekeeper. She cooks and looks after younger children. Yana is 7. She is a first-grade pupil. She is a cheerful, active and very energetic girl. The children are forced to go to school in a neighboring village 5 kilometers away, since there is simply no school in their village.

Her youngest son Illia,5, and daughter Aryna, 2, are always staying at home with their mother. The family cannot afford a kindergarten for children. Now Liliia is pregnant again. This will be the seventh child in the family. Her husband Viktor helps her to cope with all of them.

Before the conflict, the whole big family lived in a small house with two rooms. There was no work. The main income was child allowances and random earnings from the cows, goats, rabbits and poultry. 

“There was no work in the village. There was no opportunity to travel to other settlements to work. We tried to make money by selling milk”.

In February 2015, at midnight, heavy shelling began. Viktor, Liliia's husband, went out into the yard to see the direction of the shots. Suddenly a shell fell near their yard, and the second shell landed 7 meters away from Viktor, who was standing on the house porch. Viktor got a serious shell shock and lost his hearing for a while. 
The blast wave knocked out all the windows in the house. Under one of the windows there was a child's bed, where Liliia’s  youngest son slept. That night Liliia saved the life of her son with her son. 

“When the blast hit, I covered my baby with my own body, and the glass from the broken window hit me in the back”.

The consequences of that shelling are still noticeable. Liliia has problems with her speech. She is stuttering. She is not the only one.

“The children experience anxiety, concentration problems, fears and, as a result, urinary incontinence”.

The house was seriously damaged in the blast. All the windows were broken, the front walls were destroyed and the roof and the foundation were seriously damaged. However, Liliia and her family did not dare to leave because it was too risky to leave the house unattended. They tried to repair the house on their own. They covered the broken windows with plastic wrap. They even had to spend their nights in the basement because it was the warmest and the safest place in their household.There was no help from the local authorities. 

“At first I didn’t want to ask for help. I did not believe that anyone would really help us. My husband advised me to go to the NRC office and find out about the Heavy repair project, because he heard that NRC had already helped someone in the village”.

Now the house is in the process of restoration. There is a new slate on the roof. Renovation works on the walls have been completed. Three small rooms for the children have been completed. New windows have been installed and internal works are being carried out now.

 “The main thing for me now is that the active phase of the war does not break out again. I am afraid that my house will be destroyed again. After all, we hear the sounds of shots every night”, Liliia says. 

Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/Norwegian Refugee Council
Les billedteksten Den økonomiske nedgangen og høye arbeidsledigheten i denne delen av landet tvinger innbyggerne øst i Ukraina til å ta umulige valg, som å velge mellom å kjøpe mat, medisiner eller sende barna på skolen. Iryna (10) hjelper moren Liliia Poturoieva med arbeidet. Foto: Ingebjørg Kårstad/ Flyktninghjelpen

#4 Mangler full tilgang til rettigheter

Konfliktrammede i Øst-Ukraina har ikke full tilgang til rettighetene sine.

Nesten 700.000 pensjonister mottar ikke pensjonene sine fordi konfliktrammede må registrere seg som internt fordrevne for å få utbetalt denne. Mange har pensjonen som eneste inntektskilde, men får utbetalt denne helt vilkårlig.

I områdene rundt regionene Donetsk og Luhansk, som kontrolleres av ikke-statlige grupper, mangler rundt 60 prosent av barna fødselsattester som er utstedt av ukrainske myndigheter. Nærmere 80 prosent av dødsfall i disse områdene blir ikke registrert av ukrainske myndigheter.

Olha Nazarova, 68, is a pensioner from the small frontline town of Shchastia in Novoaidar district. Olha has been living in this town since she was 18. She lives alone. The old woman is suffering from limited mobility, and she needs crutches to walk. 

“Four days ago, I fell and hit my head so hard. The first day I was at home laying down, because it was very bad. Then a friend came in and cooked me a meal”. 

Still, Olha feels dizzy and frail. 

During the active phase of the armed conflict, Olha did not leave the city. She experienced all the horrors of war in her own flat on the outskirts of the town. The blast shattered all the windows in the flat. 

In 2018, representatives of the Norwegian Refugee Council told Olha about the Food for peace programme, and Olha received the necessary financial assistance to buy much needed products. 

Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC
Les billedteksten Olha Nazarova (68) bor i en liten landsby ved frontlinja og får humanitær hjelp slik hun klarer seg. Nesten 700.000 pensjonister i Øst-Ukraina mottar ikke pensjonene sine fordi konfliktrammede må registrere seg som internt fordrevne for å få utbetalt denne. Mange har pensjonen som eneste inntektskilde, men får utbetalt denne helt vilkårlig. Foto: Ingebjørg Kårstad/ Flyktninghjelpen

#5 Usikre fremtidutsikter

Man regner med at rundt en million mennesker har blitt fordrevet på permanent grunnlag.

Ukrainere som har måttet flykte fra hjemmene sine på grunn av konflikten har behov for å kunne gjenoppta et normalt liv, enten ved å vende hjem frivillig, eller ved å integrere seg på et nytt sted.

Mennesker som lever på flukt over lang tid, opplever ofte at det er vanskelig å integrere seg i vertssamfunn med knappe ressurser. Mange familier på flukt opplever diskriminering og vanskeligheter knyttet til å finne bolig, få tilgang til tjenester og skaffe fast inntekt. Mange steder får ikke internt fordrevne stemme ved lokalvalg, noe som bidrar til å hindre integrering.

A map of Ukraine, before the war, painted on a wall at Maiorsk crossing point in Donetsk region. 

The entry/exit control point “Maiorsk” is one of four vehicle and pedestrian crossing points in Donetsk region. It is located about 20 km from the non-government controlled Horlivka town. The grey zone between the Ukrainian checkpoint and self-proclaimed “DPR” is the widest among all of the EECPs. After the ECCP was opened in early 2015 there was no bus connection in this corridor, so people had to walk nearly 2-3 kilometres to take another bus. The situation changed in 2016, when it was agreed to launch bus shuttles. Over the period of its existence, the EECP has had many temporary closures due to escalation of the hostilities. Every day at least 7,000 people, mostly elderly, cross this entry-exit point to get their pension and social payments, visit their friends and relatives, buy essential goods. While crossing the contact line, concerned civilians are often exposed to serious security and safety risks such as minefields along the roads, periodic shelling and queuing at the checkpoints in harsh weather conditions for long hours.

Photo: Ingebjørg Kårstad/NRC
Les billedteksten Et kart over Ukraina, slik landet så ut før konflikten, er malt på en vegg ved en av kontrollpostene ved frontlinja. Foto: Ingebjørg Kårstad/ Flyktninghjelpen

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