Despair and fighting spirit. These are the conflicting emotions that the Ukrainians have been struggling with for 100 days now. Also in the capital Kiev, where trapped Russian equipment is displayed today. “I feel like I’m frozen inside,” says Olha Olinyk. The 46-year-old doctor walks past the Russian tanks and missiles displayed as trophies.
“I feel frozen inside because I do not want to let myself be controlled by the terrible losses we suffer. Because if I do, I will fall apart and I will not be able to perform my duties,” says Olinyk to the news agency Reuters. That is the determination with which Ukraine has been able to extend the struggle with Russia for several months.
What was supposed to be a rapid ‘lightning war’ for Russian President Putin is turning into a long war of attrition. With enormous firepower, the Russians move further and further into the eastern Donbas region. According to the British Ministry of Defense, the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk will fall completely into Russian hands within 2 weeks.
take up life
The Battle of the Donbas is fought a 5-hour drive from the city of Kharkov. With fierce resistance, the Ukrainian army managed to keep this city out of the hands of Russia. Although correspondent Jeroen Akkermans still hears artillery fire these days. “But the people here are used to it now.”
According to Akkermans, no one is really scared. “While here you see many apartments and markets that have been destroyed by rocket strikes. Occasionally people are still trying to resume normal life. We talked to an owner of a shoe store. Her business went up in flames, for the ruin she now sells her shoes and other things that she hopes to make a profit on. “
The clothing salesman is one of the many thousands of Ukrainians who suffer hard during the war. But what about Russia? The West is throwing sanctions packages and boycotting. Still, most Russians seem to come out of the match unscathed so far. “Still,” says Russia expert Hans van Koningsbrugge. “But the big blows are still coming for Russia. For example, the oil boycott will not really take effect until the end of this year.”
Economists expect the European oil boycott to hit the Russian economy hard. The ban on high-quality technology is also important. “Russia still has such materials, but they are gradually running out,” Van Koningsbrugge explains. “On top of that comes the departure of Western companies. The car manufacturer Renault is now being replaced by a Russian party, but it does not have the same options. The Russians will soon be driving a kind of eighties cars without airbags.”
However, Russia is not powerless from one day to the next. The country learned from the sanctions it faced after the conquest of Crimea in 2014. For example, it increased its own food production. New home-grown products were also introduced, such as a copy of ‘real’ Dutch cheese. Jeroen Akkermans took a look at how it is made in 2016.
Shrink the economy
In terms of food and energy, the country can manage on its own. But sanctions meanwhile mean the economy is likely to shrink by 11 percent this year. And it will still affect the average Russian according to Van Koningsbrugge. “The government can not compensate for that, the Russian will notice in his wallet later in the year. The question is whether they will take it.”
The impact goes further. For example, the Russian section of business magazine Forbes estimates that 600,000 people will lose their jobs as a result of sanctions and the departure of Western companies. Sofya Suvorobva is one of them. The Russian was a PR employee at an international IT company until it decided to leave Russia.
“Like my colleagues, I received an offer to continue working for them in another country,” Suvorobva told the AP news agency. “But I can not move because my parents are very old and my young children go to school here.” The Russian lives with his family on her husband’s income. According to her, all the extras, such as eating out, are a thing of the past.
These perks have been under pressure for some time now with us and other western countries. Their own sanctions have been driving up energy costs for weeks. According to Russia expert Hans van Koningsbrugge, this puts pressure on Russia’s common approach. “Who is willing to suffer the most pain, that’s the most important question now. It’s like two sumo wrestlers grabbing each other, who wants to knock who first?”
In Kharkov, they know who is first on the mat. They kept the Russians out of their own city and now they have to be chased out of the rest of Ukraine. “I have not met anyone who thinks that the Donbas should just be abandoned,” said correspondent Jeroen Akkermans from Kharkov.
“‘This is our country,’ say the Ukrainians here. Should we now reward the occupiers and give them a piece of our land in exchange for peace? No, they say, now we will definitely have everything back.”