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Pro-Russian Separatists Face Health Crisis


A pro-Russian separatist cooks food next to a checkpoint in the Spartak area near the Sergey Prokofiev International Airport in Donetsk, Nov. 18, 2014. (REUTERS/Antonio Bronic)

A pro-Russian separatist cooks food next to a checkpoint in the Spartak area near the Sergey Prokofiev International Airport in Donetsk, Nov. 18, 2014. (REUTERS/Antonio Bronic)


The government in Ukraine is threatening to stop financial support for hospitals and medical services in areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists. The announcement comes as some people in those areas appear to be tiring of the fighting between the separatists and government forces.

Victor Kuchkovoy serves as health minister of the region the rebels call the Donetsk People’s Republic. Right now, his decisions could affect the future of the rebellion against Ukraine’s government. If the government stops paying hospitals and doctors in the east, the insurgents may face anger from people living in the Dobnas area.

That is exactly what the government in Kyiv hopes will happen.

Dr. Kuchkovoy says pro-Russian fighters have been preparing for the loss of financial support. He says they are hoping to make the best of their resources. He says the fighters monitor, watch over, the 193 medical centers under their control. And, he says they direct humanitarian aid to where it is most needed. The aid comes mainly from Russia, and the medical teams in the rebel-held areas have not received their pay for months.

The doctor said that, even before the announcement about halting financial aid, the government in Kyiv had been cutting support to the east.

Last week, there were signs that some people were tiring of the conflict. Small anti-separatist protests took place in the Dobnas area. The leaders are mostly women and old people. The “hunger protests” happened mainly in smaller towns.

About 2,000 people took part in an anti-separatist protest in Sverdlovsk. They held pro-Ukraine banners and demanded that the people they call “Russian troops” leave the town. The fighters have called themselves, “volunteers.”

Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, defended the government decision to cut payments for public services. On his Facebook page, he blamed Russia for any suffering because he said it incited the current conflict.

The rebellion began after the ouster earlier this year of Ukraine’s pro-Russia President, Viktor Yanukovych.

Mr. Yatsenyuk wrote, “The Kremlin is responsible for the humanitarian disaster which is threatening to come to the Donetsk and Luhansk areas. As soon as the Russian troops leave the Ukrainian territory, normal life will return to the Donbas.”

The United Nations says more than 4,000 people have died in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. More than 10,000 others have been wounded.

It seems unclear whether the rebels can deal with the humanitarian challenges caused by the conflict in the coming weeks. Observers say the rebels in Donetsk seem better organized than those in neighboring Luhansk.

A 40-year-old woman named Julia demonstrated the mood of some residents as she stood in line for food set up by a local businessman. She said the aid banks operated by separatists in Donetsk give out less food than the private aid center.

I’m Jeri Watson.

This report was based on a story from reporter Jamie Dettmer. Jeri Watson wrote the story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

region – n., a part of a country, of the world, etc. that is different or separate from other parts in some way

insurgent - n., a person who fights against the established government or authorities

resources - n., a supply of something (such as money) that someone has and can use when it is needed

monitor – v., to watch, observe, listen to, or check (something)

banner - v., a large strip of cloth with a design, picture or writing on it

mood – n., the way someone feels; a person’s emotional state

residents n., people who live in a particular place, usually for a long time

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