By George Eliason for the Saker blog
Working in close cooperation, Lugansk People’s Republic and Donetsk People’s Republic have set out to find and repatriate missing victims of Kiev’s war crimes buried in mass graves and return them to their families. The interdepartmental group responsible for the effort is called Without a Statute of Limitations (БЕЗ СРОКА ДАВНОСТИ).
The official start of this project was August 11th in Pervomaisk and during the initial 3 days of opening of a mass grave near the Sokologorovka and Kiselesky neighborhood 21 bodies were raised.
These are victims from Ukraine’s shelling of Pervomaisk center from July 27th to August 9th 2014.
According to LPR 1st Deputy Foreign Minister Anna Soroka who is the head of the interdepartmental group working on recovering the bodies, 40 victims have now been recovered of what they now believe might go as high as 80 in this single location.
In midsummer 2014, the Ukrainian army and specifically Donbas Battalion led by Semyon Semenchenko moved to the outskirts of the city and opened fire indiscriminately hitting the center, apartment complexes, single family homes, and even the hospital.
In general, when you see terms like indiscriminate, it tends to diffuse responsibility for the result and compare the results with accidental occurrences. At Pervomaisk and across Donbass this was and is the case when it comes to civilians being targeted with military weapons.
The siege of Pervomaisk shows the attack on civilians was so blatant Ukraine couldn’t cover up doing it so instead tries to diffuse responsibility onto the victims themselves.
In June 2014 Sementchenko gave a speech on Maidan saying Pravy Sektor wasn’t dedicated enough to the work of cleansing the towns and villages. To him, Dimiti Yarosh’s Pravy Sektor were only common cowardly looters.
On July 26, 2014, Semenchenko and Donbas Battalion announced on his Facebook page the assault on Pervomaisk was set to begin. He claimed civilians were out of the way and it was “separatists” who were being struck.
On July 27th Semenchenko announced “Fighting continues in Pervomaisk, Luhansk region, militants fire mortars at the city.The commander of a battalion of National guard “Donbass” Semyon Semenchenko reported about it. “Residents of Pervomaisk. Nothing is over yet. Don’t leave the basements. We’ll tell you when you can. Terrorists are hitting the city with mortars,” Semenchenko wrote on Facebook.”
Donbas Battalion were located at the city limits near the sign at the entrance to the city.
The militants firing mortars at the city in reality was LNR militia firing at Donbas Battalion at the city sign.
Semenchenko told LB.ua Donbas battalion fighters fired into Pervomaisk houses his intelligence claimed there were no civilians, only militia fighters.
In early July, Oleg Dube; one of Donbass Battalions more committed volunteers fighting “separatists” had a falling out with Semenchenko because of the murder and cowardice displayed by Donbas battalion in Nikolaevka. On his Facebook page on July 7thhe wrote when they entered Nikolaevka, there were only unarmed townspeople there. They knew going in there was no militia.
In his own words Dube describes a Donbas battalion filled with cowards shooting everything that moved and throwing grenades into the houses, cellars, and every structure killing everyone and everything they came across.
This is what the people of Pervomaisk faced in the attack from July 27th to August 9th in 2014.
Oleg Dube was arrested and detained in Izyumske. Later on, to make a point to the battalion, Semenchenko reportedly made Dube kneel in front of the battalion and urinated on him.
Semenchenko attested to the authenticity of Dube’s complaint himself by posting his answer to Oleg Dube. “Who is in the Military Prosecutor’s Office? In wartime such allegations are unacceptable. Moral strife in the battalion will not be tolerated.” Semenchenko went to say if people believed what Dube was saying Ukraine would lose the information war.
It’s time for Ukraine to lose the information war. It’s time Kiev realizes all of these lives matter.
The head of funeral services for Pervomaisk, Olga Sirakoavskaya recalls Ukraine firing at the center of the city during this period.
“It was on these days that a spontaneous burial appeared in a place that was least exposed to fire. Well, of course, there were immediately those who died, and fragments, and there were a lot of wounded. At first they tried to take them to the hospital town, then (the Kiev security forces) began to hit the hospital town. Well, they broke it,” she recalls.
When the attack of Pervomaisk began in July 2014, first they used aviation and bombed the city. Then they switched to heavy artillery destroying civilian objects like homes, apartments, and stores killing civilians.
The shelling was not just daily, but hourly. People could not leave their shelters to take a breath of fresh air.
The morgue and the forensic medical examination bureau in Pervomaisk were bombed so there was nowhere to bring the bodies.
People were forced to bury their loved ones in the courtyards of houses and in vegetable gardens.
The bodies found on the streets and could not be identified were brought by the militia and the city ritual service were buried near the cemetery on the outskirts of Pervomaisk, – said Anna Soroka.
Looking at the example of already opened mass graves, it is clear what condition people were buried in: in rags, bedspreads, carpets, polyethylene, with rare exceptions in coffins hastily knocked together from boards.
The now head of the Pervomaisk city government, Nikolai Tokarev was a witness to the events. Tokarev recounts that they buried the dead by wrapping bodies in plastic or blankets or whatever they had.
“They buried them to a depth of about 50-60 centimeters. If they managed to dig a standard grave, they buried them in two tiers,” he added.
“It can be seen with the naked eye (from Ukrainian firing positions) that it is the civilian population who died as a result of hostilities,” Anna Soroka, the chairman of the Interdepartmental Working Group recovering the bodies stated.
This testifies not only to murders, war crimes, it speaks of a cynical genocide. The Ukrainian army, being on a hill above Pervomaisk, perfectly understood where it was shooting. In addition, due to the constant shelling of the bridge connecting the city with the Republic, a real humanitarian catastrophe was happening in Pervomaisk.”
Anna Soroka noted that special attention is paid to the identification of criminals from among the military-political leadership of Ukraine and the composition of the armed formations of Ukraine, who gave and carried out criminal orders.
The working group noted that the collected information will be included in the evidence base of Ukraine’s crimes against the people of Donbass and the subsequent transfer of materials to the relevant international bodies to bring Ukrainian criminals to justice in the courts.
And the collection of records and information continues, which will contribute to the investigation, locating, and identifying victims of the Ukrainian crimes from 2014 onward.
According to chairperson Soroka, in Pervomaisk, the initial records showed about 90 people were buried in this mass grave in 2014. Over time, relatives of the victims retrieved and reburied some of them.
She went further stating “in the field, an examination was carried out, material was selected for forensic examination and genetic research.”
After identification is made, the remains are given to their relatives for burial. Those not identified or waiting identification will be reburied at a dedicated memorial site.
Going forward, we are documenting the work as it progresses and will be featuring interviews, investigative work, and city and site specific documentaries from across Donbass.
Kiev and Semenchenko must never be allowed to plead equivalence with the governments of LPR and DPR. There is none.