Head of Luhansk Oblast on living under Russian shelling

23 February 2022, 12:53 PM

The Luhansk Oblast has been under near constant shelling by Russian proxy forces since Feb. 17. The area around the town of Schastia (Happiness in Ukrainian) has sustained heavy damage: artillery barrages have damaged residential areas, a kindergarten, and the Luhansk power plant. 

In an interview with NV Radio, Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk state administration, described the situation on the ground in the region as of Feb. 22.

NV: What’s the present shelling situation in Luhansk oblast?

Hayday: Artillery fire keeps raining down on us, and for the first time during my tenure, the enemy is using Grad multiple rocket launchers. It’s not likely we will be able to repair the damaged Schastia power plant in the near future.

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NV: What does that mean; which areas are left without power?

Hayday: We opened a huge new substation in Kremenna. It now has to deal with all the additional load caused by Schastia power plant being out of commission. At the moment, only areas in Schastia itself and in its immediate vicinity are without power. We’re currently working on setting up alternative ways to reroute power to those. But some villages are so close to the “grey zone,” we won’t be able to do any repairs there due to constant shelling.

NV: What about the Schastia power plant itself – can it be repaired?

Hayday: Firstly – no, enemy artillery fire makes it impossible to repair the power plant right now. Secondly, they first hit the power plant with artillery shells, and then fired on from Grads, as if they were specifically trying to destroy it completely. Even under peaceful conditions it would take a long time to repair.

NV: Russian propaganda insists that Ukrainians are firing at themselves. Do the locals realize who’s responsible?

Hayday: We’ve spent the last eight years listening to their propaganda, we’ve heard it all. All sorts of nonsense, fake news. People living in Schastia can clearly see what’s going on, on which side (of buildings) the bullet holes are, where the shrapnel is flying from. Some even start filming when they see incoming fire from grenade launchers or other weapons. Everyone is perfectly clear that the Ukrainian forces have nothing to do with it. Not to mention, Ukraine’s Armed Forces rarely even retaliate, which is duly noted by OSCE (observers).

NV: What do you think about the proposals to institute martial law, in Luhansk Oblast specifically?

Hayday: Luhansk Oblast is already designated with a military-civilian administration, but if this flare-up escalates further, or if Russian forces start moving into Ukraine-held areas – I would whole-heartedly support the measure. It would allow us to make some key administrative decisions faster.

We remember how chaotic 2014 was. Things are much more organized toady. We’ve adopted a program of mobilization and evacuation. We have a clear understating of what to do and how to do it. We’re in communication with military-civilian leaders along the front line. Martial law would give us a bit more speed in making decisions, which is crucial.

NV: What are some immediate steps that should be taken?

Hayday: We’re focusing on the most important things, but the current crisis along the front line is not yet an invasion. We need to quickly find a way to provide heating to people in, for example, Schastia, who are suffering after local infrastructure was damaged. This damage needs to be repaired, water supply – restored, and we need to quickly appropriate funds to mend damaged roofs.

Should the shelling intensify and start posing an even greater threat to the civilian population – we will start the evacuation.

NV: Is the entire oblast ready for a large-scale evacuation?

Hayday: I won’t spill all the details – some of this is classified. Parts of the population we could house elsewhere in the oblast even now. Others we would relocate to other regions, in the Ukrainian heartland. We’re ready, necessary transportation is available. We will act quickly on this.

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