Keith Gessen at The London Review of Books:
I decided to leave Donetsk after seeing a man getting shoved into the trunk of a car by a group of armed men in fatigues. ‘Get the fuck in there, blyad’!’ one of them shouted at him. The man was blindfolded and had his hands bound behind his back. He was unsteady on his feet, either because he was drunk or they’d beaten him, or both. This was going on a few paces from the headquarters of the DNR, where Mishin was working on an organisation chart for his proposed ministry of sports.
I got on the train and travelled to Kramatorsk and Slovyansk, where the war had begun. Slovyansk, in particular, was a revelation. I had seen photos and videos of it under occupation, when people were being shot in the street. A month after the rebels had left, people were walking around eating ice cream. There were still plenty of ruined buildings, but the atmosphere was almost festive. I saw a group of children who were so cute and happy I wanted to take a photo. I asked their mothers if this was all right, and they said yes, except, they added, they weren’t from Slovyansk. They had come from Yenakievo, Yanukovych’s hometown, where the fighting between government forces and the rebels was fierce. Slovyansk, once a byword for the war, had become a place where people took refuge from it.