Russian forces in occupied cities of southeastern and eastern Ukraine are taking steps to erase Ukrainian identity and coerce remaining residents into accepting Russian rule.
The Wall Street Journal spoke to residents from the southern Ukrainian city of Berdyansk where Russian forces with willing locals are taking steps to remove everything Ukrainian.
The report by the WSJ quotes Ukrainian officials who said that Russian forces are handing out Russian passports, introducing the ruble and distributing new textbooks for the next academic year in occupied regions.
An office in Berdyansk which issued passports removed Ukrainian state symbols and replaced them with pictures of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A marriage registration office, run by a former city council official, handed out marriage certificates to three couples, two of whom were married earlier. These couples were wedded while the Russian national anthem played in the background.
Protesters Face Torture
Tatyana Tipakova, a resident of the city, used Facebook to gather people against the occupation and staged protests – a sight common days after Russia occupied Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions. The protests petered out as Russian forces coerced locals into submission while some sided with them.
Tipakova, however, faced their full wrath. They beat her by raining blows on her hands and head and then attempted to suffocate her with a gas mask over the next 36 hours.
Their demand – shoot a video denouncing Ukraine and renounce her pro-Ukrainian stance.
The threat – forced labor in penal colonies in Russian cities of Rostov or Vorkuta.
She did not acquiesce at first but once metal clips were affixed to her ears and electric shocks given to her body, Tipakova was forced to relent. She narrated her ordeal once she left Berdyansk via humanitarian corridors to reach Zaporizhzhia.
Businesses, Stores Looted
The Russian sympathizers are being rewarded for their abandonment of Ukraine. Tipakova, mentioned earlier, who possessed a collection of liquor brought back from her travels to South America and Europe was raided soon after she left the city.
Vyktor Tsukanov, a former city councilman, beach business was confiscated and given to a policeman who sided with the Russians. Tsukanov’s two kiosks and a nightclub were given to those who were loyal to the Russians. They were once owned by people who left the city fearing repression and torture at the hands of the Russians.
In a bid to woo the Ukrainian citizens, Russian forces looted a meat-processing plant to distribute the goods to people but as war progressed they were forced to bring meat from Russia.
Russian forces are struggling to contain the rise in prices of essential commodities in these regions where goods now cost two or three times higher than normal.