Buses from the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine arrive daily at a terminal in Moscow.
Sergei, a former mine worker, came to Moscow from Rovenky. He will work in a car repair service here. He said he can hardly believe that he will sleep without the sound of shooting.
“Lugansk and Donetsk mostly are being shelled. Mainly the suburbs,” he told Euronews. “It is one hundred kilometers away from us, but we hear the sounds of shooting day and night, we hear the peaceful districts under fire. And we don’t know what will happen to us. We live on a powder keg.”
A week ago Russia temporarily recognised all the documents issued in the eastern Ukraine. Passports, birth certificates, vehicle license plates and other paperwork became legitimate in Russia.
In 2014, Katya abandoned her Donetsk apartment. She rents a room in Moscow and hopes to get a place for her two-year-old son in a local kindergarten . They live with her elderly mother in Komsomolsk, about an hour from Donetsk. Katya got her new passport issued by the Donetsk People’s Republic in October, and straightaway started using it in Russia.
“It is a real problem going to Ukraine,” she told Euronews. “There are long queues there! It’s just awful. People start queuing at 5 a. m. They stand in this line and watch mortars being shot nearby. And nevertheless they stay in line so they can get to the Ukrainian side.”
Dmitry is from Donetsk and spent several months in Moscow working as an IT engineer. He used to work as a mining technician, but says that there is no more work in Donetsk. The papers issue does not interest him.
“I do not want this passport, it has been recognised only temporarily. So what has been recognised here is something which is temporary, and we are not recognised anywhere. So where will I put this passport after all?”
Valentina has been regularly crossing the Russian-Ukranian border for ten years. She works as a concierge in Moscow. At the end of her working month she goes back to her daughter and grandson in Donetsk. Valentina lost her son-in-law in the conflict, in 2014. He used to work as a police officer.
“People are queuing to get passports,” she said. “My daughter will get one, of course, my grandson will get one. Kiev either gives them, or doesn’t. But do you understand that not everyone wants to go there, many people just do not want to go there.”
The decree recognising documents issued in the east of Ukraine was described by Moscow as “temporary” until a “political solution” was found to bring peace to the region. Kyiv called it a provocation. Ukraine’s president said it “was just more proof of Russian occupation and Russian violations of international legal norms.”
“I think the humanitarian aspect exists here without any doubt,” Director of Carnegie Moscow Center Dmitry Trenin told Euronews. “But I think for Russia it is also a political question, and I would even say the political aspect has the priority. Russia sends another signal to the West, that the future delay in realising the Minsk agreements could bring us to the point of those agreements becoming history and another scenario will develop, one not written in the Minsk agreement.”
Some people say that similar small bureaucratic steps eventually led to Russia’s formal recognition of two breakaway Georgian regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, after a war in 2008.