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Where do you belong, old people? Starving pensioners of the occupied Donbass

According to the resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, occupied territories of Donetsk and Lugansk regions stopped paying pensions and salaries to state employees on December 1. Only those who left the ATO zone and registered as migrants in the cities controlled by the Ukrainian power will be able to receive these payments. The journalist of the GORDON tried to get to grips with the problem faced by those who remained in the occupied territories.

Where do you belong, old people? Starving pensioners of the occupied Donbass / ГОРДОН

Photo: dn.vgorode.ua

By Tatyana Orel

There is an increasing number of starving old people in the occupied territories of Donbass. However, many of them do not even consider moving out of the ATO zone

On November 19, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko signed the law "On Ensuring Rights and Freedoms of Internally Displaced Persons". According to the Ministry of Social Policy, they are already more than 445 thousand people. 87 thousand of them are elderly or disabled people. But it is only a fifth of the pensioners living in the occupied territories of "DNR" and "LNR". Everyone who remained in the ATO zone for some reasons will be able to receive pensions only after these territories are liberated from terrorists.

An elderly woman walks along the counters of one of Donetsk supermarkets where the range of products has reduced during the occupation, but there are still some products on them. Also she looks. She hypnotizes bologna sausage, then liver sausage, then she slowly walks on to the meat rows. She stuck to the window with her forehead, silently examining goulash scraps. Obviously, she is choosing what to buy. She can afford everything: she does not have to pay for window-shopping.

Even if she had to pay, she has no money anyway. For three months already. They was not enough money before, but there is none now – since she stopped receiving the pension.

In fact, she is sly, this grandmother in a worn puffer coat with a patch on the sleeve. She comes to the supermarket during the lunch time when there are more people in the shop. How did they teach young coquettes in old times – at the corner, at the nose, at the object? The old woman has her own trajectory: from the counter to the queue. She catches an eye of a kind woman, then walks to the counter again. Until she hears a whisper behind her back, "Old lady, let me buy a hundred grams of bologna sausage for you".

There is an increasing number of starving old people in the occupied territories of Donbass. But many of them do not even consider moving out of the ATO zone. Neither post nor banks work there, it means that they cannot withdraw money from their cards, nor can they get help from their children, nephews, grandsons, and old people ran out of cash long ago. Payment terminals in supermarkets do not work either.

Pensioners living in the ATO zone learned in October that, according to the law on the special status of certain territories of Donbass adopted by the Verkhovna Rada, only those who register in a city controlled by the Ukrainian power will be able to receive pension.


Славянск, управление труда и соцзащиты. Здесь, как и в других украинских городах, жители оккупированных территорий выстаивают длинные очереди для того, чтобы переоформить пенсии и соцвыплаты и вернуться домой. Фото: slavgorod.com.ua
Slavyansk, Department of Job and Social Help. Here, like in many other Ukrainian cities, people of the occupied territories stay in the long queues in terms of re-registration their pensions and other social payments. Photo: lavgorod.com.ua


"Not a single kopeck (Ukrainian money) to the terrorists," Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said suggesting complete financial isolation of the occupied territories. Pensioners should have pretended migrants to prove that they are not involved in terrorism in order to receive pensions.

Here the problems began that became insoluble for many of them. People with better health ventured a long journey under gun fire. They found a pension fund in another city, stood in a queue of migrants, swallowed Validol in stuffy corridors, sometimes spent nights at railway stations if they had to stand in the queue for more than one day. And then they came back home. And where else can they go if nobody waits for them anywhere?

And those who were not able to move were loaded in the cars by their relatives and taken to the staff of pension funds as many were refused to re-register the pension by proxy. Staff of the pension fund sometimes sympathized with them, went down to entrance with all papers that were then signed by the sick old people. We do not know if those who did not have strength nor caring relatives are still alive. Who keeps track of the dead and alive in the so-called uncontrolled territories?

Later the Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine Lyudmila Denisova will call the tricks of the elderly people from occupied territories "pension tourism" and will explain details of the resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers No. 595 as of November 7.

ВИДЕО
Press-conference of the Minister of Social Politics Ludmila Denisova. From 13.47 she talks about the "pensioners' tourism". TV channel "112 Ukraine" / Yuotube

 "Today there is a need to keep track of internally displaced people because there appeared such a phenomenon as "pension tourism" now. People simply set out, get pensions outside their region, and then come back, and we do not know who these people are, why they come back to the ATO zone and in what events they are involved," Denisova said.


Даже полуразрушенное свое жилье старики на оккупированных территориях боятся оставить без присмотра – это все, что у них есть. Фото: Александр Ermochenko/ EPA
Pensioners are afraid to leave even the almost destroyed from the attacks appartments, because that's the only thing they have. Photo: Aleksandr Ermochenko/ EPA


Courts are not filled up with claims against the state only because people are busy with other things – they think of how they can survive under attack

The Minister explained that, according to the new rules, pensions will be paid only to those people who really left the occupied territories, who were registered in a social security agency, which is confirmed by a sealed certificate, and is living at the new address now. The first deadline for migrants from the ATO zone to re-register in the cities controlled by the Ukrainian power was December 1, then it was extended for another month.

The law "On Ensuring Rights and Freedoms of Internally Displaced People" specifies rules of registration of migrants and their rights guaranteed by the state.

Migrants from Donbass, or "refugees" as people call them, can theoretically count on temporary placement in hostels and rest houses or in the territories of recreation camps. In some depressive regions, local authorities even provide them with apartments abandoned by the owners. In social networks, there are also a lot of announcements from Ukrainians who are ready to provide their country houses to families from the ATO zone free of charge.

People who lost their houses as a result of shelling are glad to have any roof. But many people in the territory of "DNR" and "LNR" still live in their apartments and houses that are, fortunately, completely or partially intact. Their life is hard and full of worries. They listen to the cannonade behind the windows though there are often only window openings covered with plywood. But they still live there. And everyone has their own reasons: some looks after seriously ill people, some have been confined to bed for many years, some are afraid to leave their houses because fighters can settle their – they want to spend the winter in warmth and not only drive stolen cars.

There is another reason that no governmental document can take into account: an elderly person sometimes cares more about a place on the cemetery where he comes to tell his or her relatives, "Wait a little, we will meet soon".

But they must still live till that moment. The old man who apologizes and asks a young couple to buy him some Validol in front of a drugstore in Enakiyevo. And the paralyzed old woman in Makeyevka whose both daughters and both sons-in-law remained unemployed. And old Shura, whose house in the village near the airport turned into a heap of plaster and stones; now she lives wherever she finds place, and wanders across frosty Donetsk looking for warm soup.

The office of the SOS East civil initiative that helps residents of eastern Ukraine and the Crimea receives hundreds of calls every day. It seems that they must have got used to everything, but the lawyer Elena Luneva cannot keep her indignation:

"The state thinks that it knows better where people must live. There is a requirement that a person has to move out, re-register the pension and temporarily become a migrant. But why should a person who has a house in Lugansk or Donetsk move somewhere and why should he or she lose the pension otherwise? The state takes responsibility that is too much for it – it is not able to manage so many immigrants.

I think that courts are not filled up with claims against the state only because people are busy with other things – they only think of how they can survive under attacks. They have other things than claims concerning the pensions and the fact that it is impossible to re-register pensions by proxy. According to the resolution of the Pension fund, the principal can register the pension, but cannot re-register it. It is nonsense!

People call and ask what they should do if they have to come back home after re-registration of pension as they have no place to live. They are afraid that their new address will be check, that they will be deprived of their pensions, but they still return home. The Ministry of Social Policy has no clarification in this respect. It turns out that the state pushes elderly people to lies and does not even think of facilitating their lives; it does not think that it should not punish people who are already in trouble," the lawyer of the Crimea-East SOS network of legal assistance offices Elena Luneva says.

It turns out that the state only complicates people’s life

There is also informational hunger in the occupied territories where there are no Ukrainian TV channels or printed editions; it is satisfied with gossip. Starting from tales about nationalization of apartments in case of the owner’s moving out of the borders of "DNR" and "LNR" to gossip that it is necessary to register the new address at the housing office and confirm registration with a stamp in the passport. Practical pensioners say that none of relatives in other cities will agree to register an extra person in their housing as they will have to pay more for utilities.

Elena Luneva answers that the Department of Work and Social Security has the right to verify data submitted by a person during his registration as a migrant, but this data does not include the place of actual residence. The address is recorded only according to the applicant, and no stamp in the passport is required.


Митинг переселенцев в Запорожье. Фото: glavpost.com
Protest of the migrants in Zaporozhye. Photo: radiosvoboda.org


Nevertheless, East SOS receives complaints that migrants are asked to produce various documents not required by the resolutions of the Cabinet of Ministers.

"Only medical certificates are not required yet," Elena Luneva says. "The Ministry of Social Policy did not explain to the structural divisions what they can demand and what they cannot. Or on the contrary, it did explain, then it turns out that the state simply complicates people’s life."

Ukraine has to cut "DNR" and "LNR" off all supplies – gas, water, heat, and power. And take people away. Then the Ukrainian army could start the attack 

The 22-year-old Biology teacher from Yasinovataya Yuliya D. is a young specialist. When she came to work at school after university, she did not even get her first salary from the state. And she will not get it now. Ukraine has stopped payments to state employees in occupied territories since December 1. Teachers had to make a choice: either go to the "other" Ukraine or remain to work in "DNR". Yuliya had no choice.

Since she became an orphan, she has lived with her great-grandmother, Neonila Pavlovna, who turned 84 recently. The great-granddaughter says that in the summer it took the old woman 15 minutes to go from her tiny room to the kitchen. A month ago she was confined to bed. She does not receive pension as well as Yuliya does not receive salary. They live on humanitarian rations from Akhmetov's office "Will Help" and canned food from "DNR" that is currently given instead of salary at school.

"Perhaps I do not understand something," Yulia is confused, "but, please, explain who needs to set these obstacles to pensioners and why. Banks will not work in the occupied territories – by the way, they stopped working before December 1. We know that payment terminals in the shops will be switched off, and the we will not be able to pay with the cards any more. I read on the Internet that Yatsenyuk said, "Not a single kopeck to the terrorists." Everything connected with finance will be blocked here.

But why cannot people get pensions on their cards without this damned migrant’s certificate?! Give them what they earned, and they will decide how to use this money. I will go to Krasnoarmeysk or to Kramatorsk, I will withdraw grandmother's money in an ATM and will come back home. What is criminal in it? For some reasons, nobody in your Ukrainian government thought of such a simple solution. Now we simply have nothing to live on. My grandma will not get any migrant’s certificate – I cannot take her anywhere."

"In your Ukrainian government"… This phrase will certainly be a target for all those who write angry posts about "Lugandon pro-Russians" in social networks and support the decision on termination of social benefits in the occupied territories.


Скриншот: Victoria Wind / Facebook

Screenshoot: Victoria Wind / Facebook


Translation of the Screnshoot: 

Victoria Wind: "You know, I want to send to hell all those who say that the Ukrainian government must provide everyone. The life of my family is simply ruined because of these morons. Do not tell me that not all of them are pensioners and so on. I know perfectly well how many people continue supporting terrorists in small towns, how much mud is thrown at Ukraine. I remember mottos they used when occupying Donbass. Go away from Ukraine, occupants, and everyone will have pensions and peace".


Жители Донецка встречают оккупантов. Фото: argumentua.com
People from Donetsk meet occupants. Photо: argumentua.com


Yes, many are guilty to Ukraine. For meetings under Russian flags. For blocking roads for Ukrainian tanks and meeting Chechen fighters with flowers. For mean exclamations from crowd during the "parade of prisoners" in August. Guilty – but not everybody. Old people who are confined to bed have strong alibi for sure. After all, even murderers are fed in prisons...

Donbass is not only shouting undereducated Russian supporters deceived by their own candidates. There are many who could not outvoice them – silent, intelligent people who forgot since the beginning of occupation how the TV is turned on where there are only Russian channels. They surf Ukrainian sites at night, "like" witty posts of Shenderovich about Putin, and, responding to volunteers’ appeals, donate for the Ukrainian army as much as they can. There are also pensioners among them who cannot be seen or heard, but they suffer from feeling their minority the same way as from the attacks.

The co-director of the Committee for the Affairs of Displaced Persons Ruslan Rygovanov, former arbitration managing director from Gorlovka, believes that Ukraine has to cut the territories of "DNR" and "LNR" off all supplies – gas, water, heat, and power. And take people away. Then the Ukrainian army could start the attack.

 


Фото: Руслан Рыгованов / Facebook

Photo: Ruslan Rygovanov/ Facebook


"But if the state is not going to liberate these territories so far, it declares that there will be no military operations, it conducts peace talks, why does it at the same time deprives people of the chance to survive?" Ruslan Rygovanov asks.

"Why cannot people be credited pensions on their cards without the condition of resettlement? The banking system will be closed, people would decide for themselves how they can go and withdraw money. Yes, it would be difficult, but it is possible to agree on a humanitarian corridor. After all, Ukraine conducts negotiations with "DNR" and "LNR". It buys coal from them and supplies power.

Perhaps, saving of the state budget was the main motive of refusal from paying pensions? But such saving will cost much. Losses from this decision will be much greater than from attacks. We will have a fifth column for decades," Rygovanov thinks.

Among other civic activists, he often meets representatives of the Cabinet of Ministers and makes suggestions that could facilitate the problem of migration.

"The Ministry of Social Policy is the least efficient so far, I think; it declared that the Department of Pension Fund and its offices are withdrawn from the occupied territories, but it did not even see to it that its employees are provided with housing on new places. What can we say about other migrants?" Ruslan Rygovanov is surprised.

Physicians in the occupied territories found themselves in similar conditions though they considered themselves Ukrainian experts until recently. The state does not pay salaries to them, but all the same they go to work as before. After all, someone has to treat people. "DNR" and "LNR" especially need physicians. Bandits can rule quasi-states themselves, but they cannot extract a tooth to a Chechen terrorist or sew up wounds – they need physicians.

Local health care "officials" accompanied by armed people went to medical institutions and threatened physicians who still secretly hope that the Ukrainian power will return soon, "Write job applications, otherwise we will invite everyone to military offices individually." There is no need to explain what a "military office" in Donetsk or in Lugansk is. Some know about it by hearsay, and some know it from personal experience. They have to agree with the requirement. All the more, there are generally more women among physicians.

Most of them will probably find a job in Ukraine. But many have families and elderly parents; they cannot live in hostels with one bathroom on the floor. How can they leave for a long time? Those who see the situation from inside rather than from the height of ministerial chairs understand everything every day better: terrorists get settled there with the help of Russia. Inhabitants of the occupied territories do not understand political deals. But everything looks exactly this way in reality.

Why did not the government make decisions on migrants in July so that it could liberate the occupied territories before cold weather sets is? 

The problem of migrants is aggravating every day.

"It is not clear why the government did not make decisions on migrants in July so that it could liberate the occupied territories before cold weather sets in? We do not need a new social revolution. There is a question: whose interests are defended here? Russian? No. Ukrainian? No as well. Only one idea seems realistic: certain people need it," the co-director of the Committee for the Affairs of Displaced People says.

There is another question. Why were not the governmental decisions made when the fire in Donbass only started, and there were enough places in pre-trial detention centers for all provokers with tricolors? Why were not Donetsk outcasts led by Russian political strategists cut off power and water when they occupied the building of regional administration? How could it be that a column of fighters could pass from Slavyansk to Donetsk "unnoticed" at the beginning of July?


Донецк. Так начиналась оккупация города, жители которого до сих пор недоумевают, как удалось боевикам "незаметно" преодолеть расстояние в сотню километров по дороге из Славянска в Донецк. Фото: informator.su
Donetsk. That's how the occupation of the city began. People still don't understand how the terrorists could reach so "insensibly" the distance from Slavyansk to Donetsk. Photo: informator.su


The problem of migrants is aggravating every day.

"It is not clear why the government did not make decisions on migrants in July so that it could liberate the occupied territories before cold weather sets in? We do not need a new social revolution. There is a question: whose interests are defended here? Russian? No. Ukrainian? No as well. Only one idea seems realistic: certain people need it," the co-director of the Committee for the Affairs of Displaced People says.

There is another question. Why were not the governmental decisions made when the fire in Donbass only started, and there were enough places in pre-trial detention centers for all provokers with tricolors? Why were not Donetsk outcasts led by Russian political strategists cut off power and water when they occupied the building of regional administration? How could it be that a column of fighters could pass from Slavyansk to Donetsk "unnoticed" at the beginning of July?

It is clear that people at the top were at a loss – they could not hurt "peaceful protesters". Then were they frightened – invasion of the Russian troops was obvious already. It is the first war for independent Ukraine. Then they agreed on peace, but, in fact, the played giveaway draughts.

The state may make mistakes. And people, too. But then guilt for what is happening in Donbass today must be frankly shared, too.

It is no good expecting mercy to locals from the terrorists. They may give "a tourist's breakfast" and a pack of spaghetti on request to demonstrate their nobility – and that will be it. Cossack Dremov controlling Stakhanov district in Lugansk region reminded the locals that pensions were not paid at all in the USSR from 1941 to 1953.

It is unlikely that Putin will feed old people in the occupied territories.

According to the Geneva Convention of August 12, 1949, "the occupying state shall use all available means to provide the civil population with food and sanitary materials."

But if there are no Russian troops in the east of Ukraine "as there have never been", as Putin claims, Russia does not consider itself an occupying party.

However, it is not so important to old people who will take care of them. They do not have so much time left to spend it on politics. Anyway, nothing depends on them now.

But following the laws of humanity, old people and children are not those to settle a score with.

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