re posted from EXECUTIVE INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
This transcript appears in the October 14, 2022 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.
[Print version of this transcript]
Eva Karene Bartlett
An On-the-Ground War Report from the Donbass
This is the edited transcript of the presentation of Eva Karene Bartlett to the Oct. 6, 2022, press conference sponsored by EIR, titled “We Will Not Be Silenced! Speaking Truth in Times of War.” Ms. Bartlett is a Canadian-American activist, commentator, blogger, and wartime correspondent. Subheads have been added.
The video of the entire conference is available here.
Thanks for having me participate in this panel. I apologize for being a bit late; it’s not easy to be on time here. I’m in Donetsk; I came back here on Sept. 17th. At the very moment I was arriving in the city, midday, Ukraine was shelling central Donetsk with 155mm NATO-caliber weapons which killed four civilians, one of whom was still lying on the ground when I got to the area where she had been murdered.
Two days later, on Sept. 19th, Ukraine shelled different areas of central Donetsk, killing 16 civilians. I went to one of the areas where it was a massacre; there were nine people killed in that one spot. Their bodies were still on the ground; pieces of bodies were strewn down the street. It was a horrific sight.
Three days later, Ukraine again shelled central Donetsk, this time near a busy central market. Also, on a street with a streetcar, with public transportation, pedestrians, a church in the other direction. That shelling killed six civilians; again, their bodies were still on the ground at the time I arrived about 30 minutes after the shelling.
These are all completely civilian areas of Donetsk; they were not military targets. This is not the first time, of course. We know that Ukraine has been shelling central Donetsk. They were doing so in August when I was here, they were doing so in June when I was here. Donetsk civilians are being terrorized.
The reason I’m a little bit late is I was meeting with a journalist I know who I worked with in 2019. He was explaining to me, because I wanted to know, not being a weapons expert of any sort, I wanted to clarify: Is there any legal basis for what Ukraine is doing here? He said, “No. If Ukraine was actually striking a military target and there were civilians who were injured or wounded, and Ukraine is doing so, that would be a different issue. But when Ukraine fires five or seven or ten shells into the center of the city, that’s pure terrorism.”
This has continued, by the way, post-referenda. I was just looking at some notes from a local Telegram channel. October 1st, seven people were killed in Donetsk; October 2nd, two people; October 3rd, two people; October 5th, three people killed. That’s 14 people killed in the span of five days. Some days ago, around 6 p.m., using the HIMARS system, Ukraine fired missiles onto central Donetsk, hitting two different shopping mall areas. Thankfully, as I understand, the air defense shot down the missiles, but still, there was considerable damage. Nobody was killed that day, thankfully, but it could have been, of course, a lot worse.
Just yesterday, I went to Horlivka with a couple of journalists. Horlivka is north of Donetsk; it’s a very hard-hit area, especially the villages around Horlivka. They’ve been shelled relentlessly for over eight years. I had gone to one of them in 2019, and I went back there yesterday. Basically, and again what I was told by the journalist that I was with today, what I saw, were the remains of the houses that I saw in 2019, most destroyed at this point.
So, I went to the administrative building of Horlivka, and talked with the head of that village to hear about the Ukrainians’ continued shelling. I didn’t go beyond. In 2019, I went beyond that administrative building, and I saw houses; some were still standing, most were in states of utter disuse. Roofs were blown off; walls blown out. One was still smoldering from having been shelled two days prior. This time I wasn’t able to get there, because it was too dangerous to go there. I did go to another village and tried to interview people there. Most of the people were moving quickly through the town center, but not because they were afraid to be interviewed. Sometimes that’s the case; sometimes people fear reprisals if they are interviewed by foreign media. In this case, I was told they feared sticking around the town center, because Ukraine’s shelling was so frequent.
I drove around that town and saw quite a lot of destruction. Most of the people I saw who were still there were elderly. In my experience, the elderly either don’t have anywhere to go, don’t have the means to go anywhere, or don’t want to leave their homes. So, they are being terrorized by Ukraine’s shelling. One man was standing on his balcony, and he pointed to the fact that his windows were blown out. He said that he had just covered them with plastic sheeting and was going to have to endure winter with that. That is the case in many areas of the Donbass which have been affected by Ukraine’s shelling.
I don’t know how much I can address in terms of repercussions for being observers at the referenda, because I haven’t left here yet. I haven’t received any sort of emails, but I’m aware that colleagues who came here to be observers at the referenda have been threatened with some sort of sanctions or otherwise. I myself have not received that. I do expect, being both a citizen of the U.S. and Canada, that I probably will.
I want to state from the perspective of someone who was here prior to, during, and after the referenda, that in terms of how the media has covered that—and I’m sure maybe this has already been discussed, so I apologize for making a repeated point.
Most of us on this panel know that the referenda were held in a very democratic and free manner, [though] perhaps not the most ideal. There wasn’t always 100% privacy, but frankly people here didn’t care, because it was well known what they wanted. And that was to join Russia.
I was going around to different areas of Donetsk, including Kievky, which is a very hard-hit area, routinely, repeatedly shelled on an almost daily basis by Ukraine. I went to Kirovsky. Same situation; this one in western Donetsk. I went to Horlivka, and I went to Mariupol. This is during the five days of the referenda. I saw volunteers from the Voting Commission going door-to-door, and I’m aware of how Western media is construing, more how Western media is portraying things as people having had a gun pointed at their head. That was not the case. There were local soldiers providing security, but nobody was intimidated by them. I started asking people, “Is anyone coercing you to vote?” And they would laugh, and say, “No, we’ve been waiting for this for over eight years.”
So, frankly the way the Western media is—it’s not surprising the way they’ve been reporting on the referenda—but in my experience, people here were overjoyed that the referenda finally came about, and they’re overjoyed with the results. I did conduct interviews the day after just to follow up and see, ask more of the same questions. One of the things they would say when I asked, “What do you expect, having joined Russia?” they’d say, “Peace.” That’s their overriding will, is peace. They want an end to Ukraine’s shelling. They also hope for some kind of economic stability, but peace was the overriding issue.
The People of the Donbass
I’m sorry I didn’t have time to prepare a speech. I didn’t have time to do much of anything. One other point I do want to emphasize is that whereas if we’re following some of the comments coming from people holding extremist views in Ukraine, they view people here in the Donbass as subhuman, as expendable, as people they can kill. When I talk to people here, however, most people refer to Ukrainians as their brothers and sisters, and they just want an end to this war. They want to be stable; they want their rights as Russian speakers. But they’re not calling for bloodshed; they’re not calling for more death. They just want peace and stability.
It’s really a shame—although again not surprising—that Western media won’t air this; it is a shame how dehumanized people here have been. How their entire narrative has been disappeared from the media’s reporting on things here. The media implies things started only in February of this year, when we all know it started in 2014. They’ve paid very dearly for not wanting what happened in Kyiv and Odessa to come to them here. They’re some of the most humane people I’ve met, very kind. They’re very well-informed; they have no disillusions about what’s happening here. When I ask the question—because I know the way the media is spinning things—“Do you feel like Russia invaded here?” one man’s reaction was, “How can Russia invade when we wanted to join Russia?”
I don’t blame people in the West for not understanding what’s happening on the ground here, because there are simply very few Western reporters who will come here. They do exist, though. Any of the Western media that I have seen here—and I’ve only seen in March two French media channels—were presented with the same information that we were presented with, but they chose not to report on it. So, it’s on their hands, the fact that they haven’t reported the truth. I know they have directives.
I’m very happy to be here, and to be able to share my experiences with you and the people who read my work or follow what I have to say on social media and my Telegram channel and on YouTube.
If anyone has a question now or later, I’d be happy to address that.