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A Conversation With A Friend In Mariupol

A friend of mine, whom I shall call U to protect his anonymity, has lived and worked professionally his whole life in Mariupol in Eastern Ukraine. If you've seen any news from there at all lately, you know that the Russian military combined with pro-Russian Ukranians to march on Mariupol in the last few days, attempting to win the city for Russia.

I have had an ongoing chat session with U for many months now. What follows is a lightly-edited transcript of the last few days… My friend says he will be happy to answer any questions you have. I think that for the most part the transcript speaks for itself. The only editing I have done is to preserve his anonymity, and removal of a few extraneous moments for clarity. Fob


2014-09-04

B (19:52): Haven't heard from you for weeks. Starting to worry about you. You ok?

U (20:51): Hello Bart, I am still alive and this is good

B (20:52): Yes! How bad are things there?

U (20:52): The situation became very bad yesterday

B (20:52): Oh no. Are you at least somewhat safe?

U (20:53): Russian forces started sturm
We heard explosions all the night

B (20:53): Can you get out of the city? Should you?

U (20:54): Close enough to us
I think we can, but i dont know where...

B (20:55): Do you have friends you are with?

U (20:55): So we decided to stay here as long as possible
I am with my parents

B (20:56): It's not time to go West yet?

U (20:57): I don't know. Maybe it is already too late

B (20:57): I will pray for you. I wish I knew what else to do.

U (20:58): Anyway I don't see fire from the window, I hope the fights are outside the city, we are on the edge
Thank you

B (20:58): I am reading the news. It is bad.

U (21:00): Yes... I hear these explosions louder and louder

B (21:00): Are you below ground?

U (21:01): No, at home
I guess they are about 10-15 km from us

B (21:02): So not quite time to take shelter yet. But soon unless something changes.

U (21:03): Presidents said they are ready to stop the fire today
If they take an agreeement

B (21:04): I see that. But Russia seems to want everything. It looks less likely now, but I hope so.

U (21:05): Oh yes Putin behaves as insane people. Absolutely unpredictable

B (21:06): It would be maybe better for you if the Russians took over than the current situation?

U (21:07): I am not sure Russia is now the best country to live in

B (21:08): No. But the fighting is frightening.

B (21:11): I am so sorry

U (21:12): But we are right in this fight. Why should we surrender to aggressor?

B (21:13): I know. I just want you as safe as possible Sad

B (21:19): If things change and you get the chance, tell me what happens. I will watch for news...

U (21:20): Ok, I will keep you in touch
If i will be able...

B (21:20): Thank you.
Yes, I understand. Be as safe as you can, first and always

U (21:21): Sorry for rare answers, I just wake up
I will try not to risk

B (21:23): No sorry to bother you early. I was worried by the news. Give my concern to your parents. This must be also very hard for them
I will let you have your morning now
Thanks for letting me know

U (21:27): Oh, thank you for concerning
There was a strong volley right now

B (21:27): The house shook?

U (21:27): No, it is far

B (21:28): At least that.

U (21:32): There is no actual news about what is happening right now
Who shots, from which weapon...

B (21:34): The us news says maybe 20km out is a column of Russian Army tanks and artillery with the separatists also there. They are fighting the Ukrainian army, who is currently having a lot of trouble
Nobody knows how many Russians

U (21:35): Ooh... But 20 tanks is not so many
Artillery is worse

B (21:36): Yes but no one seems to know if it is just 20. Artillery is worse, yes. I don't know what guns they have

U (21:39): Me too, but I heard one volley like so called "Grad"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BM-21_Grad

B (21:41): Just reading this.
Oh my. I hope it wasn't that.

U (21:42): I guess it was very rapid and strong shots

B (21:44): It would make sense. The Ukrainian commander said that they took a lot of artillery fire. This would be an effective weapon for that.
Let's hope they keep it away from town

U (21:46): Yes, otherwise there will be a lot of victims

2014-09-05

B (08:41): They say there is a cease fire and truce after NATO finally did something! Has the shooting stopped there yet?

U (08:43): Difficult to say
But today there was very scaring day. A lot of artillery close to us
There are pauses for some hours and then again
The last volley was 2 hours ago

B (08:44): Oh no. News seems very optimistic that it could be over now. The cease fire was just three hours ago.
The separatist leader in Donetsk says they will go along.

U (08:46): we'll see. Actually cease fire started just 45 minutes ago by our time
It's calm from there
But I hear some sounds like explosions far away

2014-09-08

U (24:29): Hello Bart

B (24:30): Hello! Didn't want to bother you, but am very curious how things are going

U (24:33): Oh, you know, I'm curious too. Really nobody gives us real information. Just gossips
It was very horrible on Saturday's evening
There were explosions at the edge of the city. About 5 km from us

B (24:33): Oh no. Is everyone ok?
Has the firing stopped for now?

U (24:36): According to official version one young woman was killed and some were wounded
The firing is everyday
Ceasefire is not implemented

B (24:39): Dammit. The BBC says that everyone is claiming the ceasefire is implemented and that there's no more serious artillery.

U (24:39): Let them visit us...

B (24:41): Apparently Putin and Poroshenko are in negotiations right now. EU is imposing oil and gas sanctions against Russian oil companies, but not Gazprom. Portobello is claiming that NATO has agreed to supply weapons, but I don't know if that's confirmed.

U (24:42): Yes, our media says the same
I see Gazprom is famous even in US Smile

B (24:44): I think maybe Putin will back down soon. He has most of what he wanted, and it's starting to get less safe for him now.
Yes, apparently "too big to fail"

U (24:44): I can't predict his behavour. And looking at different forecasts I see nobody can

B (24:44): Yeah. I'm just guessing.

U (24:46): We hope everything will finish soon. Today Poroshenko visited our city and claimed Mariupol is defended

B (24:47): Can I post our conversations? I will remove your name.
I saw that. It was good he at least felt safe to be there

U (24:48): Yes, you can. As interview with witness? Smile

B (24:49): To let my friends know what is happening, yes. Thank you.

U (24:49): If you have any other questions don't hesitate, I'll be glad to answer you

B (24:51): I will see what questions my friends have. I am assuming that food and medical care are still ok?

U (24:53): Yes, but some shops are closing, as well as some pharmacies. My mum said that she saw that some hospitals are closing too, doctors are escaping from Mariupol.
The prices for food and medicines is increasing

B (24:54): damn. I hope that turns around

U (24:54): And the calary is deceasing
salary

B (24:54): Yes people will buy as much preserved food as they can.

U (24:55): Yes, we've bought some preserved food too

B (24:56): Yes, will you be payed now or will they close [where you work]?

U (24:57): I dunno really. At this moment [my workplace] is
stagnating but still working. But there are some familiar
colleagues that were resigned. So there is no sure that I
will not be resigned too as far as I'm not [fully qualified] still

U (13:41): Thank you
You know today is the first calm evening since thursday

B (13:41): Yes. I am glad it is calm. Perhaps it will be the end of it...

U (13:41): I'd like to beleive...

B (13:42): Me too Smile

U (13:43): A lot of people left Mariupol the last week. Somebody temporary somebody permanently

B (13:45): If things will quiet down many of the "permanent" ones may return also

U (13:47): Maybe you are right Smile
But our media say russian forces increase their amount around Mariupol asa well as Ukrainian ones
If ceasefire is cancelled there will be a great battle here

B (13:48): Maybe. A lot will depend on what NATO and EU do. They have already done more than I expected.
I think the Rapid Reaction Force announcement is really good.

U (13:49): There is an opinion that they do slowly because of buerocracy

B (13:49): Yes. That is why I am surprised by how much was done over the weekend. A very good sign I think

U (13:50): I hope this will freeze russians for some time

B (13:51): Yes. I think there is a good chance.

U (13:53): We'll see soon