are Dying Here and Something Needs to Happen to Stop
I interview an American Photographer in Kramatorsk
about life under bombs
By Vera Graziadei
July 07, 2014 "ICH"
Early this morning I call Italian writer Christian
Malaparte, who’s been in Kramatorsk with American
photographer Patrick Lancaster. For the last five
days, they’ve been living through heavy bombing and
shelling, done by the Ukrainian army. Patrick has a
lot of evidence that the army is targeting civilians
and civilian homes on purpose, thereby committing
gross war crimes.
Vera: How are
you and Christian getting on there?
Well, there is a little bit of confusion right now.
We were – about half an hour ago – woken up by the
hotel staff, the one person that have been staffing
the hotel, and they told us that officially hotel
is now closed, but they said we are welcome to stay
as long as we want. They told us that there’s an
impression in the town that later on today the
Ukrainian military will be moving into the town and
will take in heavy equipment.
V: So are
you staying or leaving?
P: I think
we are going to be staying for a while. The bombing
started about five days ago. We’ve been here almost
a week now. Five days ago it started in the evening.
And for the last five days every day and night, the
majority of time, there’s been shelling of the city.
And last night there’s been really a lot of shelling
between the hours of 11pm till 3am, but it sounded
not quite like the days before, it sounded – i’m not
really an expert on the sounds of the shells and
bombs – but it sounded like it could have been a
different type of ammunition, because it was a much
more broader sound.
V: Oh, my
yeah, we are going to stay here. We are actually
trying to talk to the security companies here to
organise us some bullet proof vests and then, once
we got that organised, we are going to be going out
and observing the damage and seeing if we can
actually find out what’s going on.
there self-defence forces inside the city as well?
yes, for sure. They are in the city and they are
very active this morning. We can see them walking
back and forth in front of the hotel. Basically, we
are in the centre of the city, in the **** Hotel (I
removed the name for safety), and near the centre
there are at least two different militia compounds.
It’s kind of their headquarters. There are a few
others throughout the city, but here are the two
main ones, I believe.
of strange, because in the last five days of the
bombing and shelling, we haven’t seen a
single militia compound that has actually been hit.
Every building that we’ve seen been hit by the
Ukrainian mortars have been civilian buildings.
We personally seen at least over 40
different civilian buildings bombed, that includes a
school, an orphanage – we were in an
orphanage the day before yesterday that was hit –
and the very many large apartment buildings, like
the very big apartment buildings have been hit .
Some of the apartment buildings - it’s not like the
Ukrainian army miss-aimed or something like this –
the same buildings when they are bombed, they hit
them very hard. We spoke to one woman who said that
in the night a few days ago her apartment building
was hit with ten different mortars.
V: Do you
think they are targeting civilian buildings on
Well, if they are not targeting the civilian
buildings, then I can’t see how incompetent someone
can be as a military force or battalion. If they are
not actually targeting the civilians…They are only
hitting the civilians! Then it would be children
playing with the mortars. I mean, children could
possibly aim better than this, because
they are not hitting any
military buildings, they are just hitting the
there many casualties, Patrick?
P: I know
there are casualties, but we haven’t been able to
get an exact number on casualties. It’s been hard to
get information about that. But there have been
casualties. Some of the apartment building we have
gone to – there have been trails of blood. Early in
the week there’s been a city bus that was hit and I
believe there’s been five killed there. For sure,
there’s been others killed, but I just don’t know
last night has been the heaviest night of shelling,
so there’s probably going to be many more casualties
today. And right now… the streets – I’m looking out
of the window of the hotel – the streets are very
full: there are four militia men, DNR men, outside
V: What are
just keep walking back and forth. I think they are
preparing for what might happen today.
there many civilians still in the town?
there are definitely many civilians.
V: So how
do they, and you, survive all this shelling that has
been going on for almost a week?
P: When the
shelling starts, everyone –
a siren goes off in the city or several sirens –
the people go down to their cellars and stay there
until the bombing stops.
terrible. What about food and water? How is the town
doing in terms of provisions?
P: There is
food and water in the markets, but I think the major
problem is that most of the day, while there’s
shelling, everything is closed. In the evening it’s
very hard to get to the markets. But the
major problem for the people here is the money.
Many of the businesses are closed, so no one here
has income, so they cannot afford to buy groceries,
even though there might be groceries in the market.
there any humanitarian organisations at all that are
helping people out?
P: The only
time we’ve seen a situation like this was in the
centre, the main park, where some sort of
humanitarian aid was going on. They were giving baby
formula to mothers with their babies’ birth
certificates, to prove that they have a baby. But
that’s the only aid that we’ve seen here.
thing is…I believe that at least half of the
city is without the electricity, because
the hotel that we are in is ********* (removed info
for safety) and when we first came we could see the
lights at night throughout the city and now one half
of the city is totally black.
people free to leave, if the want to?
P: As of
yesterday, I know the buses were still running and I
believe they are still running this morning, but not
100% on that.
But, in an
addition to civilian homes that have been hit,
they are targeting the infrastructure of the
town as well. Sometimes the water doesn’t
work, because I believe they’ve hit some of the
water pumping stations. Yesterday afternoon we went
to a gas station that was hit… Actually, it was
twice the day prior – once in the afternoon and once
in the evening.
majority of the shelling has hit civilian homes.
V: Why do
you think they are targeting civilians? It’s a war
crime, isn’t it?
it’s very puzzling. I’ve been in Ukraine for the
last four months. I started in Crimea and moved to
Donetsk and the whole time I was down in
Donetsk, I kept hearing about these things going on,
that the Ukrainian army is targeting civilians and
hitting civilian homes over and over. I really
didn’t believe it. I thought it was just East
propaganda, but once I came here…I see these
enormous apartment buildings in the centre just
bombarded over and over again. I really
don’t understand… May be they are trying to get the
local population to not support the DNR army anymore
or it’s some kind of turmoil… I really don’t
understand. It just does;t make sense at all.
doesn’t seem to be coincidental that in Slavyansk
the civilian and their homes are hit too. So what is
people’s mood? Are they pro-DNR or pro-Kiev?
P: As far
as the normal civilians, not the DNR people, are
concerned..Since the bombing started, the sentiment
has gone: “What is Poroshenko doing? Why is
he killing us? Why is our president murdering our
people? ” And as far as the militia
soldiers go, from talking to them…We’ve talked to
several of them over the week we’ve been here…The
number one is, when I tell them that I am from the
United States – the number one thing that they try
to express to me is how they are not
terrorists and that they are local people, who just
want to protect their home from the government,
that they call the fascists, the not real government
in Kiev that just wants to kill the people. And I
think they have no plans of giving up. For all of
them – if they give up, their family dies.
That’s an idea that I’m getting from them.
V: Have you
seen any Russian soldiers?
would really be impossible to tell the difference. I
haven’t seen any military Russian soldiers. I can’t
really speculate, but you would think - how Putin
justifies his actions in Crimea, that
he’s saving the Russian population from attacks and
what not, you’d think since this is happening, he
would move in the military, because
he said he wanted to protect the
Russian citizens in Crimea and there are far more
Russian citizen in trouble here. People are kind of
thinking: “What is he waiting for? Why isn’t the
Russian government helping us?”
V: So are
people waiting for Putin’s help?
yes. Actually people are starting to get a little
bit frustrated, because they got this idea from
Crimea situation, but now they’ve done a referendum
here and requested to go… Some of the people feel
abandoned by Vladimir Putin and some of them think
that he’s being a hypocrite at this point.
people. We are really worried about them. Is there
anything else that you can tell us, which you think
is important for us to know?
P: All I
can talk to you about is that the civilians are
dying here and something needs to happen to stop it.
V: Are you
scared for your own life? We are scared for you.
right now. There’s been a few times. Over the days…
like the first day the bombing started ,we were out
in town… I don’t know, if you saw the video? When we
were walking along and then the bombs came down, we
had to really run, as they were dropping all around
us. My ears were actually ringing when we got back
to the hotel, because the explosions were so
intense. I think some mortars were hitting 3-4
meters away from us at that point. But since it’s
been every day, every night kind of thing, it’s kind
of getting more normal (laughs)and we are starting
to understand how to react.
anybody given you instructions on what to do during
P: No, you
kind of work it out for yourself. You look at the
building where the damage has been done and think
“it hit there and it blew up this way, so may be if
we stay this far away from windows when the bombing
is happening, then we’ll probably be ok.
shocking that you don’t have this all over the news
in the West. Why do you think the media has been
almost completely blocking all this information out?
Hmm. I think…(pause)
because it’s not Russia doing the atrocities, it’s
the Ukrainian government. If it was Russia doing
this, it would be a whole different story.
V: Do you
send out your footage to any news channels?
Christian has his blog: cbmalaparte.wordpress.com and
I have my
news youtube channel under name Patrick
Lancaster. RT has been in touch with us and we
are working on trying to get our footage out to
other channels, but it’s been difficult.I have
many hours of video and if any company would like to
contact me, they can definitely do that.
the best way to contact you?
Facebook and Twitter. My Facebook is
Patrick John Lancaster. My Twitter is
PLnewstoday. Christian Twitter name is
short account and
footage of Patrick and Christian, as they get caught
under bombs in Kramatorsk: (WATCH IT)
Kramatorsk city center is getting hit by mortars.
The explosions started at 2225 local time. I am here
with blogger and writer Christian B. Malaparte and
10 other people, In the basement of the Kramatorsk
hotel in the center. It seems like the mortars hit
within 50-200 meters of the hotel. I am not sure but
the hotel may have been hit. So far there has been
two waves of motars with a break in between I am not
sure how long each wave lasted, it felt like an
eternity. After the first wave we thought it was
over and we went out to try to document what we can.
We got out side and down the block a bit and then
hell broke loose motors where whistling over heads,
explosions, shrapnel flying about and large chunks
of metal hitting the ground all around us as we ran
back to the hotel basement.
that the third wave just happened it was shorter
then the rest only around 5 explosions very
close. so that makes somewhere between 35-45
Explosions around us. It is a shame that many
innocent civilians just lost there lives I wont
be sleeping tonight so first light headed out to
check the damage and to the morgue. Hopefully
the mortars are done for the night.