© Photo : Alejandro Kirk
Kiev troops subjected the Donbass republics to almost daily shelling long before the start of the Russian special military operation at the end of February of this year. Civilians are frequently the victims of attacks carried out by Kiev’s military and its national battalions, as the shelling often targets residential areas.
Alejandro Kirk, a special correspondent for teleSUR and HispanTV news channels in Donbass, has told Sputnik in an interview that people living in the republics are aware of the fact that “a Ukrainian projectile can fall at any time and anywhere,” as he was wounded during a Ukrainian attack on Donetsk this weekend.
Kirk expressed his belief that such shellings are “punitive attacks,” since “they punish ordinary people just for living here.”
“On Saturday, September 17, around noon, we heard explosions in the city center. As in many other cases, with other colleagues, we ran to report. When we arrived at Lenin Square, the central square of the city, there was another explosion nearby, a van caught fire,” the journalist recounted the events. “I went to the van to find a more accurate, more informative shot. There were two people in the car. Based on experience, I did not think that another projectile would hit the same place, but I was wrong.”
Venezuelan journalist Alejandro Kirk
© Photo : Alejandro Kirk
Kirk claimed he heard “the characteristic whistling sound of 155-mm shells and an explosion a few meters to the north, on Artyoma Street, exactly where the buses run,” so he turned his camera only to see a brief flash and feel the impact on his right shoulder. “No noise or pain,” he noted, adding that the fragment also hit his right eye, causing his vision to become blurry.
“I continued to shoot, called my colleagues, and we found that the wound was bleeding profusely. The eye was also bleeding. I took off my sunglasses and found that a fragment had pierced the lens, it was probably the glasses that prevented the fragment from entering the eye,” he said.
Sputnik: How do you rate medical care in Donetsk? Have you already been operated on? What is your condition and prognosis for your recovery?
Kirk: In my case, the medical care was exemplary. My colleagues took me to the government hospital, and within a few minutes, they were washing my wound and examining me. Then, they conducted an X-ray and CT scan. I was hospitalized for follow-up at the weekend, and from Monday as an outpatient, with daily check-ups. After the wound has healed, it will be decided when to remove the fragment.
“No one has ever asked me for documents, or told me that I had to pay,” he underscored. “For me, this is a clear example of the fact that in the field of public health, no matter who you are and how much money you have, humanity prevails and not business, and this, in my opinion, is one of the most important legacies of the Soviet system, which still goes on in this republic. By the way, the hospital where I was examined was also subjected to artillery shelling. One of them I covered myself, and I made a report from the site with the remains of a downed Ukrainian missile, at the gate of the maternity hospital.”
Sputnik: What are your feelings about what happened?
Kirk: The impact of the projectile was such that it made a hole of about an inch in diameter in the shoulder. The fragment hit me in the rib and fractured it. The impact occurred 15 centimeters from the face and neck, 25 centimeters from the heart. The rib saved the lung, and the sunglasses saved the eye. That’s a lot of luck, isn’t it?
Alejandro Kirk’s sunglasses
© Photo : Alejandro Kirk
Therefore, it’s impossible not to think of this easily happening and about what actually happens to many people every day in Donetsk: that they do not have the same luck and the shrapnel kills them.
Here people go shopping with a bag, a girl leaves a dance lesson, a cook prepares lunch for children, or, for example, here is a girl walking in one direction, apparently she forgot something, stops, or just some woman is returning home from work. These are the people I saw and wrote about in my time. That’s why my thoughts are always with these people, they just became easy enemies to annihilate with impunity.
“I think this is intended to create terror, force the people to leave their homes, feel permanently threatened,” he asserted. “Every person in this city knows that when you go outside, chances are you won’t come back. That’s why, when you ask them, almost everyone is calling for more action in the military operation.”
Footage from the scene in Donetsk where Venezuelan journalist Alejandro Kirk was wounded
© Photo : Alejandro Kirk
Sputnik: What is the current situation in Donetsk?
Kirk: Unfortunately, the residents of Donetsk live in terror. Many have left, and those of us who are still here know that at any moment, in any place, a Ukrainian shell could fall. These are punitive attacks: they punish ordinary people just for living here. It seems that the defense systems are not able to detect and prevent this terrorism. We know that these are mobile, long-range artillery systems that are very difficult to detect. That is why many are demanding more decisive action, not against troops and weapons, but against those who command this barbarity, in Kiev and elsewhere in Ukraine.
Sputnik: How long have you been in Donetsk? What else have you seen?
Kirk: I came to Donbass in March last year. I toured the two republics and liberated areas in southern Ukraine, such as Kherson and Zaporozhye. I was able to witness the struggle for Mariupol and the current reconstruction process. In Lugansk, I have seen the liberation of such cities as Lisichansk and Severodonetsk, the tragedy of Popasnaya.
I’m helping with a humanitarian aid project called Bukhanka, after a Russian UAZ van nicknamed this way, which delivers food and water to small, recently liberated villages where state aid has not yet arrived. We go mostly unaccompanied and without an escort or military presence. This standalone project, promoted by journalist Nikita Tretyakov, allows me to talk to dozens of ordinary people who tell us their story, and the story is always the same: the indifference of the Ukrainian authorities, which contrasts with the humanity of Russian soldiers or Donbass militias, who often share their rations with them.
Of course, not everything is unanimous, but it is remarkable that people in the worst conditions, living in basements for months, have never, with the exception of one person, told me that they prefer the return of the Ukrainian military or ultra-nationalist battalions.
Sputnik: After the injury, do you plan to continue working in Donetsk?
Kirk: My editors are now assessing the situation, but I have the determination and desire to stay here for as long as I can. After all, I too have spilled my share of blood on this soil.
Sputnik: Could you tell us about the recent attacks in Kuibyshev. What do you think the Kiev authorities are trying to accomplish?
Kirk: Nine 155mm shells fell in Kuibyshev, one of these shells killed nine people at noon. This was praised on Ukrainian channels as an example of efficiency. They target streets rather than buildings, places where a higher concentration of people is expected.
I saw a simultaneous attack on two schools in Donetsk on Monday at 11:00 a.m., when parents and teachers gathered. Friday night attacks on Pushkin Boulevard, where restaurants are located. At noon on the same boulevard where families walked. The residential and industrial districts of Kuibyshev, Kievsky, Petrovsky, Leninsky, were attacked day and night. All this cannot be the idea of a creative artillery commander, this is undoubtedly a political decision of the highest level.