Interview by Ilja Degtjarov with Ekaterina Kornienko, published on Slavyangrad website, Sept. 1, 2014, translated from German by Joerg Braun
Part three of an interview series by Ilja Degtjarov features a young woman associated with the Anti-Maidan movement. She gives us a glimpse “behind the scenes” into that what was never addressed by Western mass media, much less reported. In addition to her narrative regarding the attack on buses with Anti-Maidan activists who were back on their way back to Crimea, we show the documentary ‘The pogrom of Korsun’ at the end of this article.
Part one of the series, ‘Interview with a militiaman’, is here.
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I have interviewed one of the first organizers of the Ukrainian Anti-Maidan. Her name is Ekaterina Kornienko, and she has been engaged in humanitarian aid for the East of Ukraine since March 2014 in Russia. Before that she lived in Donetsk and fought against the Junta regime, which came to power by the end of February and intimidated the Anti-Maidan movement by reprisals, and silenced it in most Ukrainian regions.
Recorded by : Ilja Degtjarov
How big was the Anti-Maidan movement in Kiev; were there Anti-Maidan movements in other cities in the eastern, perhaps in the western areas?
When the Maidan came together for the first time, we gave it no attention. We did not consider whether there was a possibility of accession to the EU. Nobody asked us either, if we wanted to. The West of the Ukraine always wanted to join Europe. This is their life: half of them have already been working there. They regularly went, for example, to Poland, just as we regularly go to Russia, including in the Rostov region. We work there, or we transport goods to-from there. And as they started to occupy buildings, we had to react somehow. Originally we gathered on the Europe Square in Kiev. The Europe Square is just a stone’s throw away from the Maidan, so we could hear each other. After a while, it became dangerous.
In the beginning we did not set up tents, but a lot of people came to us by train and bus. They wanted to support our demonstration. At that time we did not use the word “Russia”. We were all sticking to a unified Ukraine, our motto was “unitary land’, i.e. the motto which has been adopted now by the ‘maidanized’ – I cannot call them differently. When we organized the Anti-Maidan, we decided that it should be placed next to the Parliament, the Rada. That was the most important strategic object of our representatives within the Government: the President, which we chose, and our coalition. We wanted that they should be able to continue their work. At that time Kiev had already blocked the work of all government bodies and only the Parliament was still functional. Otherwise the chaos would have been even bigger. We tried with own forces to stop what happened there. Then we built a tent camp on Anti-Maidan. There were representatives from Donetsk, Kharkov, Nikolaev, and Odessa, i.e. from all regions of our eastern part of Ukraine. Many residents of Kiev also joined us. These were people who disliked the devastation on the Maidan.
To tell the truth, I myself went several times to the Maidan out of sheer curiosity. It was interesting to look at this brainwashed crowd. Even to enter their turf, one had to say “Hail Ukraine”. Anyone who didn’t say it was simply not let in. You had to make the arm movement, which the fascists have combined with “Sieg Heil”. I believe that all homeless from Kiev gathered in this pigsty, because you could have free food and get some money. It was joyful: dancing, hopping, marriages. It smelled incredibly, especially when it became warmer and the snow started to thaw.
Our original name was not Anti-Maidan: the people made up this name for us later. We, ourselves, called ourselves “Maidan of Unity”. We had stickers and symbols that said, “Stop dividing this country”. I still have photos of this sticker, which we spread out constantly in Kiev. At that time we already anticipated what would be coming up on us. Our Maidan area was very tidy, we had cleaners. We paid attention to order. In the tents of the Donetsk delegation we had everything set up like we had at home, in contrast to the Maidan. With regard to the question, why did we split? On February 18th I personally witnessed some events. They – the Maidanites – constantly walked around our camp and shouted “Down with the power!” “Down with oligarchs!”, and other mottos. On of February, a large group came and performed a short demonstration; but after 20 minutes they began to throw Molotov cocktails, fireworks and paving stones. Between them and us there were still police officers standing. Many people were injured. They lost their hands and their eyesight, but no mass media have shown it. Though Ukrainian mass media were visiting us, but they did not film something like that. They were filming when we handed over the Maidan people we caught to the police. In contrast to the Maidan, we have never tortured anyone, never held anyone as prisoner. After our camp was destroyed on February 18th, it was announced that the Maidan would be cleared within two hours. The Maidan was encircled, and we were sure that when order was finally restored in Kiev everything would work again. But Yanukovych, a man of weak character, arranged for a corridor of safety for women and children to be organized. As a result, the Maidan armed and mobilized itself. When I woke up on February 20th, I heard everywhere from the radio sets: “There is shooting”. At that time they already tasted blood, At that time they already understood that you can kill.
Remarkable. So, what is happening now in Donetsk and Lugansk?
The Ukrainians believe, they are convinced, that they are waging a war against Russia. But in these areas there were no Russians; apart, perhaps, from some few volunteers. From my friends with whom I communicate and with whom I grew up, about 70% became militia. Five have already been buried. Those fighting and dying were ordinary people. Yes, Russia provided humanitarian aid. However, this help did not go to the militia, but to ordinary, peaceful civilians. You could see that we delivered goods to peaceful civilians who became hostages of war. For what are the children to blame, who are being killed? For what are women to blame, who are being shot without pity? Those Ukrainian soldiers, who first shouted they would kill, were later, in captivity, very different. In captivity, they claimed that they knew nothing at all about against whom they fought; that they didn’t know that they were killing simple women and children. But they knew that! Those who did not want to participate in the war, those who were not infected by this national idea; they stayed at home, hiding from the mobilization. Those who went consciously wanted to fight against us.
Let’s take the case of this underdeveloped Lyashko, a person who comes from – who knows where – a pederast. He is speaking openly on a Ukrainian TV channel that all the boys from the East, even at the age of only one month, must be killed, and that all women have to be raped; so that only ‘Ukrainians’ are reproducing. [Oleg Lyashko is a leader of the Radical Party in Ukraine. He received eight per cent of the vote in the May 25 presidential election.]
Did he say really that?
All TV channels showed that. Where do they look, those who are responsible for international conventions, for human rights? They choose to look the other way just as they once did in Yugoslavia, Syria and Libya. Nobody listens to us and also nobody wants to listen to us. Very often, friends and acquaintances from Dnepropetrovsk and Kiev describe me as ‘Putin’s prostitute’. This information war is currently the most powerful weapon. Long ago these people were already brainwashed.
I was born in 1992, when Ukraine was already independent, so I am still very young. I have always considered Ukraine as my home country. Therefore there was actually no reason that I wished a reunification with Russia or to fight for Russia. I speak Ukrainian very well. I know the anthem; I had my school lessons in Ukrainian. So that was my country, where I grew up. But now, after they came to us, to kill us – my father, my mother, my brother, my sister – I can no longer consider myself as Ukrainian.
I am ashamed that I’m Ukrainian; I want to have my passport swapped. This nation has become nationalistic, even fascistic. Also, the traditions have become fascistic. I have always said that we must distinguish between patriotism and nationalism. I am a patriot. I love my people, I would die for them, but I do not hate other countries. Despite the war with Germany my attitude towards the Germans is neutral. The war was long ago and today’s people took no part in it. This is really a new, completely different nation. Why should I hate the Germans or the French or Russians or Polish? I have a neutral attitude towards them. In contrast, the nationalists accept only themselves. This is the old psychology of fascism.
They regard themselves as descendants of the OUN(Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, est. 1929)/UPA(Ukrainian Insurgent Army, est. 1942), like the world-famous Bandera. These however, were people who led punitive commands and killed their own citizens from the Soviet Union, peaceful Ukrainian civilians.
Lately we had a tense situation with regard to the Russian language. My mother and my father speak Russian. It is very difficult to meet someone in Donbas who will speak Ukrainian. The people even turn around when they hear it. This is originally a Russian region, where Russian was spoken from the outset. But we have not been reluctant to use Ukrainian: you have to fill out all documents in Ukrainian; everyone was able to master it more or less. I’d like it very much, if Putin would be our President, too. Look at Crimea. What was done after the reunification? Russian, Ukrainian and even Tatar are acknowledged as official languages. But that is not talked about in Ukraine at all. And in this situation you always have to watch the interests of the regions, to maintain peace and order.
Now it is no longer possible to continue to coexist peacefully with them; after all these murders, after all these children have been killed. According to official reports about 50 children have been killed. We do not know how many actually were killed. Now, they speak of 71 children killed; okay, 71. Anyway, we cannot know exactly how many children and women from the civilian population died. After something like that we can never live here again. And if you call us Ukrainians, e.g. in reports of refugees, that is already insulting us. We are fighting to not be Ukrainians any more. We are inhabitants of Donetsk, Lugansk, but definitely not Ukrainians any more. This is the result of the actions of the current Government. You also cannot overlook what the Maidan has not accomplished: the oligarchs remain in power. What happened here, with the founding of the people’s republics, was the manifestation of the will of the people. Prior to the events in Odessa [on 02.05.2014: the mass burning of Anti-Maidan activists] many were not sure whether they should be for or against the people’s republics. Somehow, they have continued to live, to work. Many did not need more than that. But when people were burned alive, absolutely everyone has changed their mind. Then, we have conducted the referendum. On May 2, people were burned, and we carried out the referendum on May 11th. This incident has greatly influenced public opinion.
If we go back to the Anti-Maidan: In the West, one would say of course it had been paid by Putin, or by Russian oligarchs, and everything has been a Moscow project.
They didn’t pay us. I personally was on the Anti-Maidan for ideological reasons. Yes, there was a food supply. Also, there were tents, blankets, heaters and gasoline given to us, because it was so cold. All the people who were there were peaceful. They all were for finally ending the chaos in the country, for peace, understanding, for a united country. At that time we hadn’t even thought of Putin and Russia and their money. If you had told me in February that we soon would conduct a referendum for the Union with Russia, I would have considered such a person insane. We didn’t need Russia. It was not too bad for us even without Russia: there was building/construction in the country, people had adapted to the circumstances. I had made the point that Russia in no way needed us either. I was one of the leading organizers of Anti-Maidan and I did not want to know anything of Putin, etc. No, we were not paid and I want this to actually reach the people: we were not there for the money, we just wanted this chaos to come to an end. It was a shame for the young policemen who were there. They were mostly just 18-to-20 year old boys, for whom we bought several things at our own expense. Ukraine is a poor country: the guys had hardly been equipped for their orders. We bought them cigarettes and food, and helped them as we could. And since we were there together for a long time, we became a family. And we looked at all that happened there as a betrayal of the people that we had protected. We were for the unity of the country. About two hours after the destruction of the camp of Anti-Maidan, when we went there and looked at it all, I felt an inner emptiness. We understood that we were betrayed and that a disaster was coming towards us; that no one would help us. When we returned to Donetsk – like me, or to other cities – Sevastopol, Kharkov etc. – we knew that a certain limit has been exceeded.
By the way, I was very surprised that our area of Donetsk had risen anyhow. We work a lot in our area and have no time for politics. All have completely different concerns: start a family and support it, buy a car, feed the children. We had no time for nonsense. What have the inhabitants of Western Ukraine have been busy with? In their cities, they are occupied with tourism; therefore they just let their houses and apartments on a lease. They did not have other occupations. Accordingly, they came easily to the Maidan and were paid for this as well.
How big were Anti-Maidan events, and did Ukrainian and Western journalists attend them?
Once three journalists from Lithuania and Estonia dropped in. They spoke Russian very well. They came over by accident. They said that they did not know at all that an Anti-Maidan existed. They were very astonished how friendly we were; we welcomed them with open arms. They were puzzled how clean and well arranged our tents were, what discipline we had. With regard to the total number of participants, some days there were up to 50,000 people. This particularly applies to days of mass demonstrations, e.g. when the Maidan wanted to prevent the adoption of the budget of the country for the year 2014. They blocked everything. And how shall live without a budget, how should we pay out the salaries of the officials: the police, the doctors, the teachers? At other, ordinary days, there were not many people, about 3-4 thousand per day.
Because it was not paid then, they had to work.
Yes, we could not simply live there, we had to work. [mobile phone rings]I am called by people from Kazakhstan, from Belarus too. They help us a lot. They are also worried and think about how they can help us. However, I wouldn’t say that there is much help coming from other countries. Nearly everything is coming from Russia. What would we do without Russia? I cannot imagine at all. To where would we flee, what would we do if Russia had refused to accept these masses of refugees? Currently only 40% of the population remains in Donetsk, at most. Where are the rest? They are all here. Very few have gone in the direction of Kiev. Perhaps they have decided that it is better not to leave the country. Well, everyone has his own reasons…
If we count up all the refugees, i.e. people who moved within Ukraine, those who emigrated to Russia, those who live in refugee camps or with their relatives, I personally have the impression that there are already over a million refugees.
Yes, that’s what it looks like. I don’t know the official information and – to be honest – I never paid attention to that. I have too much work to do and do not have the time to search for those numbers. But it is a fact that we are talking about more than a million. About 7 – 8 million people live in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and when you see how empty it is there – no people, no cars, empty shops – one can assume that there are no people in the cities. Over 50% of people are probably gone now. It is also possible that people flee from other regions, such as those who fear they have to join the army, or just do not want to live in such a country.
It remains engraved in the psyche of the generation who have experienced it all, and this is terrible. These refugee children, whom I visit so often, and that I’ve met in various Russian cities – during thunderstorms, when it thunders they are afraid that they are fired at. I was, for example, in Perm, Russia. Actually, each of them needs psychological help. Imagine how many of them there are, masses. It is virtually impossible to eliminate these fears. They will have to spend their whole life with their fears.
Half a year ago I definitely did not think that in my country a war would be waged, that the country would be divided. Now we can see that this is the case. The city Slavyansk e.g. is completely bombed. There is nothing to repair: you have to rebuild it completely. And that in a poverty-stricken country. Now from these poor people, like teachers, from their salary of 1,500-2,000 hryvnia is deducted; partly for the financing of the army although one cannot feed oneself by this money anyway. Plus, everything has become even more expensive from bread to the living costs.
It looks like the beginning of a famine. It is really ridiculous if the Ukrainian army steals food from the militia: they are just hungry; this is simply a poverty-stricken country. And with this governance the nationalists want to live in the future? They will have nothing to eat, they will have no work. But they were screaming that our territory will get subsidies. That was never the case! On the contrary, we are an industrial area, we have mines, therefore we had to share everything we earned with Kiev.
I want that every Ukrainian to finally understand: it must not continue like that any further. Every person has some pity, compassion, and when I see videos from militia, showing destroyed Ukrainian armored cars, I think of these dead soldiers: young people, twenty years old. I just feel very bad about them. They have been charged with these emotions, with this desire to murder and that works pretty quickly with young people. They die, without understanding what they are fighting for, what they are killing for. We know, however, what we fight for: we are fighting for our country, for our children, our women. We will never give away this country to anyone, because we were born here, because we grew up here. Every house was rebuilt after the Second World War. My grandmother has the status of “Child of the war”. She was born in 1936 and was, therefore, a kid during the Great Patriotic War. And she says that she is now experiencing the same times or sometimes even worse. At that time we were fighting against Germany and it was clear that the Germans were our enemies. Now, this is not clear. This is a civil war and there is nothing worse than civil war.
Both sides have been prepared for this conflict. I went to school in 1999, we still used old textbooks then. And when the new books appeared, the teachers told us that it is impossible to pack the history of the World War II into only two pages. And they told us the whole truth [despite the new textbooks]. However, they have taught the children in Western Ukraine, that Germans were their liberators. Because of that it is hard to explain anything to them: they were educated like that. And the government did not care, which also applies to the representatives of Eastern Ukraine – Yanukovych and his party of the regions. You have not been paying attention to what children were taught. Ten years ago they were young children and nobody cared about their proper education, with appropriate consequences. My brother is 9 years old and when he asks me why they kill us, I cannot answer him.
Are there any reports of drug abuse on the Maidan? Have you heard anything about that? Why have people become as they are, even those who appeared quite normal recently?
I did not just hear about the drugs, I saw them. People we detained on February 18th, were questioned by us in the Department. We did not beat them, didn’t tie them up; we simply put them on the floor and talked to them. The first five hours they kept repeating endlessly, they were Europeans, they had to join Europe, they had to kill and other nonsense. There was an 18-year old boy, still a child. I felt so bad about him that we did not gave him to the police, but to his parents. The first five hours he repeated like a maniac, one must kill, one has to throw Molotov cocktails. It was impossible to talk to him. After five hours he showed withdrawal symptoms, he felt nauseous. We called both doctors and his parents. The parents were shocked, that their child was obviously on drugs.
The people of the Anti-Maidan felt sympathy. All Maidan supporters had been treated medically. I even walked around there with antiseptic agents. However, our guys who had been taken captive by Maidan supporters never returned. Many of them are still missing. When the Anti-Maidan was destroyed, I left by train. And – I don’t know whether you have heard of it in Germany – departing buses were shot at up in Crimea (see video below – note d. red.)
I myself, as well as the head of the delegation from Crimea have talked to people who were fired at, and it was terrible. Words failed them. Many of them are still regarded as missing. One participant is living in Sevastopol with a bullet in the coccyx. Doctors from Sevastopol cannot perform the removal of the bullet, it’s too dangerous. At that time the war had not yet started: someone had simply stopped them because they were inhabitants of Crimea, because they were opposed to the Maidan, and they were shot at.
How many have been shot dead?
About 27. Most died in the first bus that was shot at. And they had no sympathy: at Maidan they gouged the eyes of a boy from the Special Unit Berkut. And they filmed everything as well. They beat people to death. For what? To maintain law and order? The police did not care who was in power: their task was to ensure law and order. And yet their fingers were chopped off, their eyes gouged out. There are countless examples of that. Now it is simply war, but at that time, at the very beginning, everything just looked crazy. There was another case when the head of a teenager from our ranks was shattered with a paving stone. We had to suture his skull directly on-site. How inhuman do you have to be to pelt people with stones? We didn’t use these paving stones until the very end. The police protected themselves with shields and we just stopped at a distance. Two tents of the Donetsk delegation, which were closer to the supporters of Maidan, went up in flames. There were documents, passports, stuff from some participants. Anyway, it was forbidden by the police to take paving stones.
Nevertheless, when we understood, that we not could beat back attacks in a different way, we started to throw them at the Maidan followers. This was self-defense after many of us were injured. Some of us had their hands torn off. They have pelted us with explosive packages, which resulted in a slight concussion. I picked up such people, at first they were not even able to speak. Additionally also pelted us with fireworks. It is no secret that you have to deal with that correctly. And if you throw them at people, they can have dreadful consequences. ‘Fireworks’ sounds harmless at first, but in reality people were seriously injured.
There are reports that Germany is helping the Ukrainian army. Officially, it was reported that Germany provides uniforms. In Lugansk packaging of German combat helmets were found at the site where the Ukrainian army was stationed. In an interview by Anna-News the militia stated that they have heard German on their radios. Do you know anything about this?
About the Germans I haven’t heard anything, there have been no further reports. But we are in contact with stringers from Anna-News and I can confirm that they have heard German through radios. Whether they are involved in the fighting or spying, I don’t know. At first, for a while, we specifically searched for evidence of mercenaries. Now we no longer do that. By accident – well, not quite by accident, because our comrades were involved – we received photos of passports from mercenaries. These documents were a bombshell. We were called by many TV stations and were asked whether they could use these materials. We allowed it. It is true that there are British mercenaries here to join. Regarding Germans, we know nothing, so personally I do not know which side they support.
It’s a fact that American military dried foods have been found here in the woods…
If America did not help them, the war would have ended long ago. Ukraine itself has no resources for it. They have even touched the state food storage, which may only be touched in case of war. This means that they cannot feed the army in a different way. At the same time, war was not officially declared: They call it ‘anti-terrorist operation’. And the stocks in these stores are slowly coming to an end, so they cannot feed the people anymore. Therefore, America jumps in with the dry food. About American arms I cannot say anything, I do not know if anything has been delivered.
By the way, on the Internet there are plenty of photos of helmets having something in German in it. Is it possible that any goods came from Germany to Ukraine?
They delivered them officially. They are very proud of it and showed it on all the news. So, this was not a secret operation. Could we but go back to the Maidan. It is not hard to guess where they had the money from, but I would ask you to comment on this.
Even the richest oligarchs here would not have been able to pay so much money to so many people. I heard the prices and was extremely surprised. We have nobody here who could have given so much money. Accordingly, the money came from outside, not from our country. Those who pulled the strings, all those European leaders who visited the Maidan, they paid for everything. They brought food and were distributing it in front of cameras. They didn’t distribute the cash money they brought with them in front of the cameras. This is no secret. All know that America paid for this, too. America would collapse without war. You mentioned prices. How much money was given? Can you convert that into Euros or US dollars, to make it clear?
For living on the Maidan, people were paid 160 US dollars per day. One was paid $50 for throwing a Molotov cocktail. Per every three people who threw, there was one that counted and was paid for. People who did shoot, got $1,000 per day. They knew that they could be arrested, in case the plan would not work. One must take into account that this is a great deal of money in our country. Actually, already $150 per day is a huge amount for an average Ukrainian. In the Western Ukraine, $150 is a monthly salary.
Film: ‘The pogrom of Korsun’
On the night of 20-21 February 2014, armed activists of the Euromaidan in the vicinity of the town of Korsun-Schewtschenkowskiy stopped buses returning from Kiev. On the buses were a few hundred opponents of the Euromaidan, returning to Crimea from Kiev. The buses were engulfed in armed violence and set on fire. For the approximately 350 people, including women and young people, cruel beatings and harassment were waiting…