Grand Theft Auto and More: The Grim Reality of Life in ‘Donetsk People's Republic’

Reports leaked by Anonymous International make DNR seem like a scene straight out of the Grand Theft Auto video game. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

Reports leaked by Anonymous International make DNR seem like a scene straight out of the Grand Theft Auto video game. Images mixed by Tetyana Lokot.

In recent months, the Russian data-leaking group Anonymous International has published a series of communications detailing the grim reality of daily life in the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People's Republic” (DNR). Rampant crime, lawlessness, and horrific instances of rape and murder now plague the residents of this separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine, according to the information released by Anonymous International.

The latest leak, published on September 2, allegedly reveals correspondence between officials from the DNR's office of public prosecutor and Ministry for State Security from late 2014 through early 2015.

“Leaders” come and go, but everything remains f***ed up, or some documents from the DNR Ministry of State Security

A lengthy report by the Ministry of State Security, the first page of which is pictured in the tweet above, describes most of the DNR leadership as a criminal group headed by Prime Minister Alexander Zakharchenko, intent on abusing their positions of authority to reap illegal incomes and solicit bribes. As summarized by The Insider, the report details how DNR fighters terrorize the local population by engaging in kidnapping, robbery, torture, and sometimes murder.

Another report prepared by the DNR public prosecutor's office in January 2015 provides a more specific account of the indignities suffered by Donetsk locals, and also identifies some of the leading culprits behind the abuses. Some of the most commonly filed citizen grievances include the seizure of vehicles, documents, and other valuables, the detention of family members by armed men and their disappearance, and the seizure of commercial and private property. The report also notes that complaints about illegal actions by armed militias most often involve the Oplot and Vostok battalions.

Regarding the Vostok battalion, a battle-hardened unit from Chechnya with close ties to the Russian Defense Ministry that was deployed to eastern Ukraine in spring 2014, the leaked report notes:

Таким образом, противозаконные действия вооруженных подразделений, входящих в состав батальона «Восток», свидетельствуют о создании крупного устойчивого вооруженного бандитского формирования, деятельность которого направлена на личностное обогащение любым способом, не только путем вооруженных рейдерских захватов производственных объектов и установления контроля над субъектами хозяйствования, но и путем тотального контроля территорий некоторых городов и районов Донецкой Народной Республики, что способствует дискредитации и международной изоляции нашего государства.

Consequently, the illegal activities of armed units of the “Vostok” battalion indicate the creation of large, established armed gangs pursuing personal enrichment in any way, not only through armed raids and takeovers of industrial facilities and establishment of control over economic entities, but also through the total control of the territories of some cities and districts of The Donetsk People's Republic, which contributes to the discreditation and international isolation of our state.

The latest leak also details an agreement allegedly reached in a meeting in October 2014 between DNR leader Alexander Zakharchenko, regional crime bosses, and Rinat Akhmetov, one of Ukraine's most powerful oligarchs and a close associate of former President Viktor Yanukovych. The deal apparently involved putting Akhmetov's people in key positions in DNR government structures, cementing Zakharchenko's hold on power, and doling out government positions and industrial assets to regional power brokers, including crime bosses and people linked to Yanukovych, who now lives in Russia after fleeing Ukraine in February 2014. As for the future of the separatist-controlled territory, the agreement specifies the goal of full autonomy for the Donbas within Ukraine and a status equivalent to that given to Crimea in 1991.

In response to media questions about the leak, Akhmetov's press office said he does not comment on “false and provocative” information circulating online.

Intriguingly, the new leak also reveals internal population surveys allegedly conducted on rebel-held territory in December 2014. According to these documents, trust in the DNR leadership is starkly described as “not only declining, but generally absent,” while general sentiment is said to be summarized by the slogan “the authorities are bandits.” A feeling of abandonment and disappointment with the level of humanitarian aid from Russia is also noted as prevalent. The percentage of the population wanting to join Russia is found to have fallen from 77 to 48 percent, with the rest of the population roughly split on full independence for the DNR versus autonomy within Ukraine. The polling identifies former separatist commander and Russian citizen Igor Strelkov as the most popular political figure, while Zakharchenko's ratings are noted to have suffered the sharpest recent decline among local leaders. An account of popular unrest in the village of Shakhtersk by locals upset with looting and a lack of humanitarian aid is also provided.

Earlier this summer, Anonymous International also leaked a series of Donetsk police reports painting a similarly grim picture of life in east Ukraine's separatist-controlled territory.

Operational reports of the DNR Interior Ministry, crime in the midst of shelling

These alleged police reports detail horrific instances of kidnapping, robbery, rape, and murder, and also provide accounts of unsanctioned protests by the local population.

The Insider, in a summary of the leaked police reports, notes that while Donetsk has previously been one of the country's most crime-ridden areas, the new information reveals a dramatic deterioration of conditions in the region:

Как мы видим, если верить статистике украинской милиции, в Донецкой области до войны происходило меньше 1 убийства в день. Поскольку ДНР является лишь частью Донецкой области, то там убийства должны происходить еще реже (тем более с учетом снижения численности населения из-за массового отъезда мирного населения). Но судя по открывшимся документам мы видим обратное – ежедневно происходит от 1 до 9 убийств (в среднем около 3), все это, не считая пропавших без вести и найденных трупов, где причину смерти установить не удалось. Таким образом, статистика по тяжким преступлениям выросла в несколько раз.

As we can see, if you believe the statistics of the Ukrainian police in the Donetsk region, less than one murder per day occurred before the war. Since the DNR is only a part of the whole Donetsk region, murder should occur there even less frequently (especially in view of population decline due to the exodus of the civilian population). However, the leaked documents show the opposite – every day there are 1 to 9 murders (an average of about 3), and all this without counting the missing and those found dead where the cause of death could not be determined. Therefore, the occurence of violent crimes has increased several times over.

The Insider also characterizes the kind of crimes described in the leaked police reports as more gruesome, including “kidnapping in broad daylight by men in camouflage uniforms, child rape, and armed robbery (again—all in public places in the light of day),” and concludes that crime has become “more cynical and open.”

While questions continue to swirl about how Anonymous International obtains the information it publishes, and why the group releases certain information when it does, the documents and correspondence leaked by Anonymous International are widely considered to be genuine, if difficult to verify.

These latest leaks appear to again confirm that the greatest tragedy of the conflict in eastern Ukraine has been the terrible toll it has inflicted on the civilian population living there.

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