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Ukrainians in occupied Luhansk being forced to burn books and adopt Russian curriculum, governor says

The i 03/08/2022 Claire Gilbody-Dickerson

Ukrainians being held in the Russian-occupied region of Luhansk are being forced to burn Ukrainian books and switch to a Russian curriculum, local governor Serhiy Gaidai told i.

“The situation in the occupied territories is terrible and terrifying because the Russians have shot a lot of people and have destroyed a lot of houses and buildings, so many civilians have been killed”, he said.

The separatist area of Luhansk, which along with Donetsk makes up Russia’s main target in the east, the pro-Russian region of Donbas, was captured at the start of July.

The regional governor said people in the city of Severodonetsk are being poisoned by the water they drink “all the time” as it has been contaminated by the bodies of killed civilians that have been left to decompose on the streets in the hot summer weather. While some residents are using water tablets to filter water in wells, “some people refuse to do this” and are poisoned as a result.

Critical infrastructure in the region has been completely destroyed, meaning people are without water, gas and heating, Mr Gaidai said, and are washing in makeshift outdoor showers built by the Russians.

“With the [Russian] authorities in power now, it’s degradation, it’s like going all the way back to the Soviet times,” Mr Gaidai said. “I think it could take ten years to rebuilt it all”.

Russia launched a land, air and sea invasion of Ukraine on 24 February saying its smaller neighbour had to be “demilitarised”.

Russia shifted its focus on the Donbas region after failing to take Kyiv and its surrounding areas. Russian President Vladimir Putin said the largely Russian-speaking areas had to be “liberated” after making unfounded allegations that Ukraine had committed genocide in the region.

But according to Mr Gaidai, the only reason for Russia wanting to seize Luhansk is so that “Putin is able to say that he has achieved something”, adding that Luhansk is of no strategic importance as it lacks any natural resources which could be exploited.

Speaking of how he feels about his home being in Russian hands, Mr Gaidai said: “It’s really hard to express this feeling because this is my motherland and I have been taking care of this territory for the past two and a half years and it’s been really painful for me to see what is going on in my home region.

“But I still believe that they will return [Russians] the territories and we will rebuild everything”.

Mr Gaidai said “the most important thing” is eliminating all Russian propaganda as he said Moscow is trying to peddle “fake news” about the war to “poison the minds of people”.

“If we ensure that people get the right information they can see that Ukraine is doing its best to restore these territories and they can understand that it’s best to be with Ukraine and it’s their best chance,” he said.

Mr Gaidai said he believes Ukraine’s armed forces will be able to take back any occupied territory, including the Crimean pensinsula annexed by Russia in 2014, but pleaded with the west to deliver more arms to resist Moscow’s aggression.


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