Russian-backed Luhansk leaders spar with Ukrainian official
On Aug. 6, two officials of Russian-controlled Luhansk unexpectedly walked across the bridge into Ukrainian government-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska.
Yuriy Zolkin, head of the local government, stopped them and asked what they were doing there in the sixth year of Russia’s war against Ukraine, with a death count of 13,000 and rising.
Vladislav Deinego, the Russian-backed “foreign minister,” and Olga Koptseva, the Russian-backed “ombudswoman” of Luhansk, answered Zolkin in a boorish manner, using phrases such as “who are you?” or “bite your tongue!”
First, they argued about the territory.
“According to the Minsk deal, Stanytsia Luhanska and Shchastia (another frontline town in Luhansk Oblast) are ours. But we don’t raise this issue,” Deinego told Zolkin, a video from Fifth Channel uploaded to YouTube shows.
“What do you mean ‘ours?!’” Zolkin said.
Then both sides started arguing about their authority and the status of the de facto Russian-controlled territories inside Ukraine’s borders, which Deinego and Koptseva represent. Zolkin called these areas a “fake formation.”
Stanytsia Luhanska is the only crossing point between Russian-occupied areas in Luhansk Oblast and Ukrainian government-controlled territory. While there are no more Ukrainian soldiers in Stanytsia Luhanska as part of the demilitarization of the area, it is still unclear why there were no police or state security officers to stop the separatist officials.
“Do you want to make us leave?” Deinego wondered.
“You have nothing to do here. Did you come here to provoke?” Zolkin said.
A YouTube video featuring the visit of two officials from Russian-controlled Luhansk to Ukraine-controlled Stanytsia Luhanska on Aug. 6, 2019.
Deinego said he was not afraid to be in Ukrainian-controlled territory and wondered why Zolkin was afraid to cross to the Russian side.
There would be plenty of reasons to be afraid.
At least 19 Ukrainian military and civilian hostages are currently held by Russia, according to the Media Initiative for Human Rights.
Zolkin responded that Ukrainian forces would retake control of all of the Donbas “just after you run away to Putin.”
“Bite your tongue,” Koptseva shouted at him.
In the end, Koptseva and Deinego went to meet with United Nations representatives and then returned to Luhansk via the same bridge.
On the same day, Ukraine lost four soldiers , who were killed when Russian-proxy forces fired a grenade launcher and struck a Ukrainian trench near Pavlopil in the southern part of Donetsk Oblast.