This series explores the situation in eastern Ukraine during the spring of 2015 offering a closer look at life in a near-bankrupt country deeply divided by the ongoing conflict.
In Kiev-controlled Odessa both pro-Maidan and pro-Russian activists continued to take to the streets. On the first anniversary of the devastating raid of the Trade Union building, a memorial service was held for the more than 40 pro-Russian victims. Although official investigations are ongoing and the building remains closed off to the public, both sides claim each other’s involvement and blame the police for not doing enough.
Historic symbols mark the roots of the current conflict in many public places. Eventually, the Ukrainian government passed ‘decommunisation’ laws in an attempt to ban the symbols and rewrite Soviet history. Some legacy systems dated from the Soviet era have been reformed, including a camp for socially disadvantaged children where Ukrainian language and culture is taught instead of Russian.
Like their counterparts in Moscow, pro-Russian rebels in the Donetsk region commemorated VE day, some amidst destroyed buildings and the heavily damaged Saur-Mogila War Memorial. Despite efforts to polish up the streets during the celebrations, signs of destruction continued to serve as a reminder of the fragility of the ceasefire.
On May 11, pro-Russian citizens celebrated the first anniversary of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) with flags and parades. Meanwhile, the fighting continued in some areas. Those unable or unwilling to flee faced an increasing struggled for survival as a lack of food and access to medicine caused desperation in local villages.
Odessa, May 02, 2015 - People remember the victims of the Trade Union tragedy, where more than 40 protesters were killed a year earlier. ©Pierre Crom
Saur-Mohila, May 08, 2015, Pro-Russian separatists attend the VE day commemoration at the Saur-Mohila war memorial . © Pierre Crom
Donetsk, May 09, 2015 - A Russian-backed tankist and his girlfriend take part in the VE Day military parade. ©Pierre Crom
Donetsk, May 11, 2015 - Residents of the Donetsk region celebrate the first anniversary of the self-proclaimed separatist regime called Donetsk People’s Republic. ©Pierre Crom
Nikishyne, May 15, 2015 - The World War II memorial shows damage caused by artillery shellings. ©Pierre Crom