U.S. Navy veteran and independent journalist, Patrick Lancaster, has been making regular reports from Ukraine since the beginning of the crisis. His reports reveal that what is happening on the ground is not what Western corporate media would have you believe.
“Over the 8 years of the Ukraine War I made more video reports in anti-Ukraine Government (Donetsk People’s Republic) controlled territory than any other western journalist,” he says.
In his report on Friday, Lancaster interviewed residents of the ethnic Greek village of Sartana, one of the villages surrounding Mariupol, Ukraine.
“This is right on, what you could say is the frontline now. Nobody knows exactly where the frontline starts and ends at this point there’s just so much information and [ ] minute by minute the lines are changing,” Lancaster said.
Eight years ago, a referendum was held and “mostly people asked for Russian language. But they decided to Ukrainise us, so that everybody speaks Ukrainian … It was forbidden to speak Russian in the store. There was some tension. Employees paid fines for not saying ‘Good afternoon’ in Ukrainian in stores,” one resident explained.
“Today I’m trying to find guys from Mariupol to find out how things are there. My parents stayed there. But they say that everything is very sad. Today I heard another story that the Ukrainian armed forces started shootings with Azov. Because the Ukrainian forces kind of wanted to give up, SMS messages come that say that ‘you can give up and nothing will happen to you’. So, they want to surrender, and Azov starts shooting at them. And they [Ukrainian forces and Azov] are at war with each other.” another resident said.
Earlier this month members of the Azov Battalion, a self-declared neo-Nazi former paramilitary group that is now a unit of the National Guard of Ukraine, bombed the village most likely aiming for a church. Village residents also believe it was Azov who bombed the school.
“Ukrainians say it’s only Russia who shoots now.–They always say so. It’s their policy. A dirty policy,” the second resident said.
Other interviewees explained that Ukrainians bombed Mariupol to create a panic: “So that people leave, and they use them as a human shield. And now all people are there. And they’re holding them at gunpoint, don’t let them go. Literally shoot them if they run away,” they said.
- 1:33– Resident 1, Grandmother– Hello! Can I ask you a question?–I don’t look good right now.–No, it’s fine.–What is the question?–Can you tell me where are we now?–The city of Mariupol, the village of Sartana. It is a Greek village. This is the center of it. All this you see is what we have, the destroyed buildings.. Well, war is war.
- 2:04– What happened? How was a month ago comparing to now?–A month ago, everything was fine, everybody used to work, everyone somehow survived. And that’s what happened, you see.–Now DPR and Russia are in control here, is that right?–As I see it is so.–When were Ukrainian forces here the last time?–It started on 24th, today it’s been a month now.
- 2:49– Ok, one month. So on 24th Ukrainians left, right?–I don’t know anything. They are shelling, when it happens we start to hide. How can you understand something at that moment? Who is shooting and whom? We hear the shelling, we hide the children and cry. No one likes that. People are left without homes, someone is left without children, someone lost parents. War is no good to anyone.
- 3:33– What is Donetsk People’s Republic to you?–I don’t know about the DPR. I assume you know the whole history yourself. I’m not a politician.–Yes. Was here a referendum 8 years ago or not?–Yes, of course it was. Mostly people asked for Russian language. But they decided to Ukrainize us, so that everybody speaks Ukrainian.
- 4:10– Well, I don’t know. If I am an adult, and I have studied both Ukrainian and Russian at school, but I can’t speak Ukrainian all the time. It was forbidden to speak Russian in the store.–Really?–There was some tension. Employees paid fines for not saying “Good afternoon” in Ukrainian in stores.–A fine?–They paid a fine, money, for not speaking Ukrainian. Sellers.–Got it.
- 4:51– I can’t do it, I’m not a politician. I just go around crying and that’s it. I started to get nervous, so I went out to clean up. Just for myself. You need to do something useful. I do not know where my 3 granddaughters are without parents. We sent them, they were afraid, crying. And now we don’t know where our granddaughters are. It’s scary, you know?
- 5:21– Someone can’t divide safes and bags of money, and poor people like us run and hide and just want to live. Do you understand? We are already used to the fact that there is no money, everything is expensive, we are already used to it. We just want to live.–Who is to blame for all this?–I can’t answer that, I don’t know. I’m not a politician.
- 5:52I feel sorry for both of them. And those have a heart and those, he is also someone’s child. Why is it necessary to die? What for? We need to talk. We need to find a common language. We must make any concessions. This is my opinion. But not to kill. This is not right. I feel sorry for both of them, they are people. And we’ve been friends all our lives, we’ve been together, Russians and Ukrainians.
- 6:26Half of our village is also Greek, it is a Greek village. I’m Greek. So many Ukrainians live here with their families, they got married. So much Russians here. We have always lived together. I don’t understand what started here. I spoke Russian, and I am Greek myself. As I went to school, everything was in Russian, I started to learn Russian, I studied English and Ukrainian
- 6:59– Were you born there in Greece?–No, I was born here.–It’s all history. Queen Catherine II resettled the Greeks around the Sea of Azov. She did not want this territory to be taken by Turks, Muslims. She wanted Orthodox people to be here. And so she settled the Greeks, they fished here, they built houses. All the villages around Mariupol are Greek.
- 7:36But we learned both Ukrainian and Russian, but..–And Greek too?–Now they are teaching Modern Greek. Not old Greek. God only knows who is to blame for this. And the rulers who started it. You see what you see.–What’s your name?–We want peace, we go to live. We are already used to having nothing. If only there was peace. But we lost that as well. Look at what we are doing now.–What is your name?–Sofia.
- 8:37 Resident 2, Security Guard– Can you introduce yourself?–Dmitry Vladimirovich Tsymbal from the city of Mariupol.–And where are we now?–We are in the village of Sartana, it is near the Mariupol, around 10-12 km from Mariupol. How I got here. They sent me to guard the store here, the Grace. From looting. That’s how I ended up here.
- 9:13Somewhere at 1:00 pm we were brought here and somewhere at 2:30 pm I heard that the guys from the DPR began to attack from behind. They were shooting, well, I don’t know, they were doing their own business. The next day they came here, in 3-4 days they took the village under control and began to clean up here. Someone was an informant, a tipster. As a result, they found one, it was not difficult to find him.
- 9:52He didn’t know the terrain. And he said things that do not correspond to reality. And in the evening he shouted “Glory to Ukraine” in the stronghold that we have there, it’s the police.–Did he say that to the police?–No, he was taken to the police, because he said that he came from Mariupol in home slippers, but he was all clean. It was slushy and freezing outside, he just couldn’t come all that clean.
- 10:24And he said that there are no troops in Mariupol, it’s okay, everything is fine. And when I left there, they already had put Grads in the courtyards, they also had put tanks just right in the courtyards there, they got into the factories..–Ukrainians?–Yes, Ukrainians, or Azov, I don’t remember. We didn’t understand much there. It’s better not to delve into it there. And that’s it.
- 10:54– I see that there has been a lot of shelling, was it?–Yes, there was a shooting here. This is probably when there was an attack in the morning, we were monitoring from a drone and there were shells landing here, behind a shop..–What day was it?–March 1st.–Have the DPR and Russia been here already?–On 28th they were still behind that central store. And on March 1, they were already here and gradually moving forward. They checked houses so that there were no surprises.11:35– You said that there was an attack on March 1, the shelling was by Ukrainians?–Yes.–Were there shelling before the DPR and Russia was here?–One more time, please.–When the Ukrainian troops were here, did the DPR shoot at the city or not?–There were assault groups with machine guns. I haven’t been here since .. It all started on the 23rd at night, as the locals say. When I was in Mariupol, I heard Grads flying in whole packages in this direction.
- 12:26– Was it Ukrainian Grads?–Yes, Ukrainian Grads from Mariupol in whole packages, you know? So they shelled the whole packages. Somewhere in this direction. On the attackers. They bombed Talakovka, and in the morning they started bombing here, because they passed Talakovka, blew up the bridge, and thus they made it difficult to advance.
- 12:52– Oh, that bridge, I saw. Who did this?–Ukrainian armed forces or someone there.–Ukrainian?–Yes, to delay the advance of the troops. As I understand it, the stormtroopers somehow made their way through the water, So, they crossed it somehow and gradually reached.. Well, I didn’t go out, I was sitting there. In the morning, a shell fragment flew in, but there was nothing terrible here, the worst thing is in Mariupol.
- 13:25Today I’m trying to find guys from Mariupol to find out how things are there. My parents stayed there. But they say that everything is very sad. Today I heard another story that the Ukrainian armed forces started shootings with Azov. Because the Ukrainian forces kind of wanted to give up, SMS messages come that say that “you can give up and nothing will happen to you”.
- 13:57So they want to surrender, and Azov starts shooting at them. And they are at war with each other. Such an episode also took place. This is according to the stories of people who got out from Mariupol 3 days ago. Mariupol is on fire, people are suffering. I haven’t been there, I’ll have to get there somehow later.
- 14:23I want everything to end faster. What is the reason? The reason is that there are nationalists in power in Ukraine, I don’t know if you know this. These are Oleg Tyagnibok, Moseychuk, Yatsenyuk, and this bloody Pasteur. These are the people who started it. Nationalists are simply in power in Ukraine. And therefore nothing good was to be expected.
- 15:06It was a matter of time before it started. It is good that in some areas the authorities have supported. For example, in Berdyansk, the authorities supported the entry of the DPR and there is a city without destruction. But due to the fact that we have nationalists in Mariupol, they do not give up, because they are doomed.
- 15:36And they know perfectly well that no one will bother with them, and therefore they are holding people hostage, hiding behind them and trying to take more people with them to the next world. And I will also tell you what happened in the summer. We have Azov soldiers in Mariupol.. He had tattooed swastika.. Do you know what a swastika is?
- 16:05And with a swastika flag on a motorcycle, one of them was driving along the left bank. I didn’t see it, the guys told me. I couldn’t believe it. They say, “Yes, imagine that.” And nothing can be done to them. Therefore, it was clear for a long time that it would be bad in Mariupol. It’s just that when it happened, I couldn’t believe it started. And now I’m here. What other questions will there be?–That’s it, thanks.
- 16:45As I was already here, on the 2nd or 3rd day the DPR were on the that side. And in the morning, when we were making the fire to cook, something flew in from the Azov side, as we understand, because it was from the Left Bank where they are based. We didn’t hear a shell departure. Perhaps it was an RPG, because there was not much of a big explosion and there was no sound of departure.
- 17:18It smashed the church and woodshed that saved lives, as there was our man who lit the fire. It was struck by shards, now you can see this.–Did the Ukrainians do this?–Yes, and the destruction of this house is also their work. Maybe they were aiming at the church and did not hit, I don’t know where they were aiming. They knew there were people hiding here.
- 17:46This has landed in the morning on the 3rd or 4th day from the Ukrainian troops. It smashed with shards, over here. It turns out about that direction. From that other side. It was hit by shrapnel and got into the church. Only one person was outside, everyone else was inside. You see the woodshed was hit by shards. The fence was damaged.
- 18:25We had a man sitting there and making fire so that people could in the morning.. We have about 40 people in the church. There’s a temple below, and people were hiding there. And the woodshed saved lives, because there were stacked firewood.
- 19:13– He was not in the basement at that moment, so one can say he was lucky.–Ukrainians say it’s only Russia who shoots now.–They always say so. It’s their policy. A dirty policy. Due to which people suffer. Regular people, like me, my parents and the whole Mariupol.
- 19:39And this man didn’t hide in the basement, he was somewhere in the settlement, which helped him to stay alive. And if he had been in the basement, they would have had to bury him right there. Roughly speaking.–Is this a basement?–Yes.–The shell hit right here and everything went destroyed, including his house.
- 20:04[Donetsk Rus, Donetsk Republic]
- 20:10[Mariupol Specialized School with advanced study of the Modern Greek language]
- 20:55 Various interviewees at a shelter– Can you tell where are we now?–Sartana settlement.–And what is the situation here?–What situation?–Tense. At least no shelling.–We lack fuel to make it warm. The rest they manage to bring here.–Gas, petrol. The food we have.–I see that they shoot a lot here.–It’s not here anymore, it’s past.
- 21:24Now they shoot at Mariupol.–No, I saw that they shot a lot.–Yes, they did.–And who was it? Who shelled the city?–How could we see who shelled the settlement? The aircraft dropped it and flew away.–Was it a Ukrainian airplane?–Yes.–How do you know?–Because it was turning through the city. Russians turn through the field.
- 21:53And they didn’t need to go twice.–And when it was, who controlled the area, Ukrainians or DPR?–Ukrainians.–They created a panic.–So that people leave, and they use them as a human shield. And now all people are there. And they’re holding them at gunpoint, don’t let them go. Literally shoot them if they run away.
- 22:20– My student told me that “Azov” didn’t let them go, but when the Ukrainian army came, they let them go.–When it was the last time that the Ukrainian Armed Forces were here?–It was 28th or the 1st… and then not anymore. And then shells landed in the settlement.–From dachas. And in one of our districts a woman died.
- 22:49– And who was it? Ukrainians?–Yes. Ukrainians returned fire here. They shelled the settlement from Volontyorovka.–I got it.–Did they bring something else?
- 23:10– Can you tell us what is the situation?–What is the situation? I don’t know how to say. The issue is too wide. I don’t know… the situation is not so good.–I got it.–It’s tough. It’s very difficult for everybody.–Is this a kind of kitchen?–Yes.–Is there a place where people sleep?–Yes, it’s there.–It’s there, right?
- 23:34And how many people sleep here?–It’s my first day here, I don’t know.–Are you local?–We came from the city to help.–There were up to 200 people at first. And now it’s already less. Those who have houses in good condition, went home. But people are anyway brought here regularly.
- 23:56They bring people from other districts here.–Who is financing all this?–What? Who’s financing? Well, they bring humanitarian aid here. Also, locals bring some stuff… I can’t even say exactly about financing. It should be asked from the management. There is a lot of humanitarian aid from various funds and people.
- 24:23– Okay, thank you!–You’re welcome!–Many people already go back to their houses.
- 24:37– Hello!–This room was full of people. They have just started to leave the place. It’s warmer now, so they go back to their houses to clean everything there.–I got it. And how many people are here now? Approximately.–Up to 100 people. It’s this room and 4 more rooms from the sides. Altogether, about 100 people live here now.–Thank you!
- 25:14– Can you introduce yourself?–Hello! My name is Maria.–Where are we, Maria?–We are in the Sartana settlement, Mariupol city, Donetsk region.–How long have you been here and how has it been?–We have been staying in the shelter of this school since February 26, 2022. When the shelling started, many people were evacuated from the city but others stayed in shelters.
- 25:53These are in the college, in this school (200 people), in the kindergarten, and in the church.–Are these people who stay here locals? Or are they from Mariupol or somewhere else?–Only locals are left here. At the moment, people from Mariupol and neighboring settlements have also started to come here.
- 26:16We are trying to accommodate them, feed them. We receive humanitarian aid: bread, clothes.–When was this place shelled the first time?–This place?–This settlement.–It started in the daytime. The airplanes were flying, so they started to bomb from airplanes. Several streets were damaged, the houses there are fully destroyed.
- 26:49After that shelling, people gathered in the shelter and started to spend their nights here.–Do you know whose land this was at that moment? Who controlled the territory, Ukrainians or Russians, or who controlled?–We don’t know whose were those planes. But one day, when we slept in this school, there were “Azov” forces here.
- 27:21They came here and occupied all floors, as well as streets nearby. They put their positions there.–So “Azov” was in this school, right?–Yes. “Azov”.–Did they shoot from here or what?–Yes, they shot from here. They stayed here for several hours. After they left, on the same night, the school was shelled.
- 27:50The school was hit by several shells, direct hits. It was a terrible sound! All children got scared. As well as adults, actually. Everyone took it hard.–So, you said it was a base of “Azov”, they shot from here and left, right?–They came here for several hours and left. And right after their “visit” a massive shelling started.
- 28:21– So, they left and shot, or what did you think? What’s your opinion?–Who was shooting?–Many locals think that they set up trackers here.–“Azov”?–Yes. So that the school was considered a military object. Thus, it was shelled.–So they knew it’s a good base and wanted to make it… I see.
- 29:01Can you show me a bit of this humanitarian aid? What’s there?–What do we receive?–Yes. And what is the process and who, and so on?–We are locals who stayed in the basement, in the shelter. We self-organized and started to bring food products from home. We took big saucepans from the school canteen and started to cook.
- 29:27We started also to feed the elderly who were left without their children, as well as all those in need. When the situation returned to normal more or less, they started to deliver humanitarian aid here. They bring clothes. Those in need choose clothes for themselves, those who don’t have houses anymore.
- 29:47They regularly bring us bread, grocery sets (quite good ones–flour, oil, cereals, sugar, tea), household kits (detergents). All this comes in batches. Now we hand out 1 set per family. As soon as we get more, we will provide all locals with this.–Is there anything left from “Azov”? Maybe their uniform?
- 30:35No? Nothing left? I got it. That’s it. Thank you so much!–Only damage is left. You can see it on the 3rd floor. It broke through the roof, the slab-overlap from the second to the third floor and a shell stuck into the wall of the gym. It was there for a long time, I do not know if it was already removed or not yet.
- 31:04– Okay, thank you so much!
- 31:19– This part of the school suffered the most.
- 31:27These are classrooms. This was a computer science cabinet. It was fully equipped with computers.
- 31:45-This is from where the shell came and broke through the roof. And hit here. So it happened as it happened. Before they came, it was quite okay.–So, you said, before “Azov” came it was okay, right?–Yes. And after their 2-3 hours “visit” the shelling started.–When they already left, right?–Yes.