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From anti-Maidan protests to Donbass war – Journey of a model becoming a war reporter, and future of her motherland

Some people asked me who is Katya, as I work and mention her often in my reports and articles. So I have decided two months ago to make an interview of her, which I publish today. I let you discover her story, how her personal life was completely changed by the Maidan events, and how she sees the future of her motherland.

Hello Katya, can you present yourself?
Hello, my name is Katya Katina, I am a DPR (Donetsk People's Republic) citizen and now I work as a reporter, as a journalist, in News Front. It is a Russian information agency, and I am working for them since more than two years, from the very beginning of the military actions here in Donbass.

What was your job before the war?
Well, before the war I had a very peaceful and creative profession. I worked as a model. I played in small musical videos, and films even, and nothing dealing with war, nothing dealing with military actions at all.

How can someone get from being a model to being a war journalist? That is quite a huge job change. What motivated you to do that change?
I think I had no other choice, because the war, all this military conflict, came to my Motherland, and of course I could not stay behind and hide from it. Because it is my Motherland, it is my native city, I like it very much, and when I saw these events in Maidan started, it was in November 2013, and I remember that I had some inner feeling that this disaster, I thought it is a disaster, could somehow influence my life. And when all theses actions started, all these protests against Nazis, against Bandera, and everything, of course I participated in it, in all these actions, in all these events. So, I was an activist firstly, just on the barricades, in all the meetings, participating everywhere. And when all these shellings started I decided to change of profession and become a journalist. And it was accidentally. One friend of mine just met me near this administration building, and he asked “Kate, maybe it is interesting for you to become a journalist, because we need one”. I thought “Ok, maybe, why not”, and actually from the 1st of June 2014, I became a journalist. Firstly I was a stringer, then I was a usual correspondent and journalist, and now I am also the head of the News Front office here in DPR.

You said you participated to the protests here in 2014. So you were an activist. Why did you participate to these protests, to the barricades, and to the assault against this administration building, which was taken early April 2014? Was it because you were some kind of a Kremlin agent paid by Putin?
[Katya laughs] Well, unfortunately not. I am not a Kremlin agent. Maybe someone thinks like that but no. I was just not indifferent from my childhood. I was brought up with the ideals of the Great Patriotic War. All my grand-fathers participated in this war, they were heroes, they were rewarded. And I was brought up with this love for our Motherland, this patriotic feeling. And when we saw this Maidan craziness, all these bastards in masks telling that “Russians should be killed”, “You cannot speak Russian language” “You should kiss the ass of Bandera” and so on, I was like a rebel and I thought “What the hell?”. Why should we, Russian people here, because the Eastern part of Ukraine was always Russian you know, it was a part of the Russian empire before the Revolution… And I thought that it is impossible for us, and millions of people thought like that. You know there were protests in Kharkov, in Odessa, in all these parts of historical Novorossia. But here in Donbass, in Donetsk and Lugansk, these protests were really huge. And all people walked, and we decided to start the fight for our rights. Do you know what we wanted firstly? We wanted the federalization of the country. So each region should have its own head, its own budget to make it fair. Because it was always like that: Donbass fed almost the whole Ukraine. Because it is an industrial zone, there are plants, there are factories. And I think that 80% of the Ukrainian budget was given by Donbass.

So it is the contrary of the Ukrainian propaganda saying that Donbass people are just lazy, that they just cost a lot and so on…
How can we be lazy? Again if we take this Maidan, they were jumping on Maidan, doing nothing, and our miners were working, our factories worked, everyone was working. Because our people did not participate in this Maidan and so on. We were just working. But when we saw this alert, that this Right Sector, which just appeared, could come and put their rules, of course we could not hide, we could not stay indifferent. We had to fight for our rights, for our freedom. So that is why I became an activist, and later became a journalist.

How many people did these protests gather here in Donetsk in March and beginning of April, before the occupation of these administrative buildings?
Well, thousands of people. I remember just the very beginning of these protests movement, when there were just some dozens of people, maybe hundreds, and then thousands. And maybe our viewers, our public, saw these films on internet, when we were marching with flags, in peaceful protests, and there were thousands of people. I do not know how many, but I think the whole central street was full of people [note from the interviewer: when this street is full it means at least 30 000 to 50 000 people].

When did the war arrive here in Donetsk in 2014?
Well in Donetsk it came later. So, in April, the first military actions started in Slaviansk, and I think it was the end of May when the first attacks of the Ukrainian airplanes, the first fights in the airport happened. So the 20th May 2014. Then there were again some kind of shelling stuff on the suburbs, again the airport area was the hottest spot at that period of time, and starting from July it became more serious, and in July the Ukrainian army started to bomb the city itself. Kievskyi district, Kuibychevskyi, Trudovskyi, Petrovka, all these places were shelled. So the war came in July 2014 to Donetsk.

So when you began your work as a journalist, it was really huge, full-scale hostilities. Did you get on the front during this period, or were you working more behind the front line?
Well, I remember we were very close to the airport, in July 2014. It was like a hot spot but not too hot. And of course, firstly, we did not have any helmets, any [bullet-proof] vest, anything. We were just like tourists walking with cameras. Without any safety equipment, without anything. Then, I remember, I worked in shelled places, and sometimes we came to the place and the shelling was continuing. So quite serious moments. And then, I think from autumn 2014, I started to visit the front line, when a strategy of cooperation, of good cooperation between fighters, and journalists, and the Ministry of Defense of the DPR, everything was alright. Then I started to go. Because firstly, in July, many journalists died because of this lack of coordination. They went somewhere, without knowing exactly where they were going. And some of them were captured by the Ukrainians [like Graham Philipps], and some of them were killed, like Stenin. Because they were going nowhere, without knowing exactly. I remember this period of time and it was really harsh. No safety equipment, no car, you can go by bus to the place... Actually it was very interesting stuff. You could go by bus to the place that was shelled. So despite the shelling, the public transport worked. You could easily take this bus and go to Trudovskyi. Maryinka is very close, you can walk there. I remember these moments.

And you were not afraid so much to work in such conditions?
For me it was some kind of an adventure, firstly. Maybe I could not believe that it is like, real. No one could believe that war can be here in a peaceful country. Nothing. No threats. No alerts before. And for me it was such a big adrenaline, maybe I did not evaluate the danger at that period of time. And I worked on this courage, I worked on this adrenaline. And then some days, some weeks after, I realized “Ok, I could die easily under this shelling”. But it was after. On the moment you do not think. You are just there and you say “Ok I believe in my angel, which is protecting me, and everything will be fine. I should work, I should share this information, share the truth with people”.

So when you were part of these protesters, these activists who took these administrative building, you did not think that Kiev would attack militarily the city?
I could not think about it. We thought that it should be some kind of negotiation process. To give more freedom to the regions, to make referendum, to federalize the country. But these killers, I can not call them another way, they are killers, they are murderers, and these people, these Kiev government, this Kiev “president” and so on, they decided to just kill the people who don not share their opinion. So that was their reason, their motivation. Of course for us it was something incredible. Something unbearable. How is it possible not to listen to the opinion of a person, and just to kill this person? How is it possible? To kill your own people.

Now you, as a citizen of DPR, you have contacts with a lot of people, and as a journalist too, how many percents would you say of people here would like to come back to Ukraine?
To come back to Ukraine? I think very very few people can say this. And these people were not here during these military actions. They were somewhere in Ukraine, hiding their asses, or maybe in Russia. And now they come back, say that everything is shit, everything is bad, and they want to come back to Ukraine. But such people I think they are very few. I think less than one percent. Because every person that was here during these military actions of 2014, 2015, of course they can not come back to Ukraine. It is impossible to come back to the people who is killing your family, who destroys your house, who spoils your career, your life, everything. It is impossible. Because now Ukraine is a maniac. It is a real terrorist, killing people. How can we live… If to compare with a family, how can you live with such a maniac like a family? Because the maniac, even smiling to your face, will one day put a knife into your back.

Because there is some Western propaganda, saying that people here are taken as hostages by the terrorist government of DPR and LPR. It is to show a little bit that it is purely crap.
It is some disaster in mind I think. How can people here be called terrorists? We do not make any terrorist act. Nothing of that kind. No kidnapping, no bombing, nothing. How we can be called terrorists? I can not understand really.

For the moment the Minsk agreements are still more or less “on”, but we have seen recently an escalation of the situation, with an increase of shellings, increase of victims, the assassination of the commander Motorola. How do you think the situation will evolve here in the newt weeks or months?
Well, it seems to me that there will be an escalation. Because there are the signs of it. The shellings even in the morning, early in the evening, and we can hear really big calibers working from the Ukrainian side.

Even yesterday (29 October) evening they did not wait for the night…
My house was trembling. And I can see that the Ukrainian army and all these mercenaries are getting more and more impudent. They behave in such a way like “we can do everything, and you will follow your Minsk agreements, and you will not answer”. And because of this, they are becoming more and more aggressive. And of course we should take into account the American elections as well. And I think it can also somehow influence the possible escalation. Again, this ceasefire regime it can not be forever. Because it is not peace, it is not war, it is somewhere in the middle. And this fragile “peace”, this ceasefire regime, can fall at any minute. It can not be forever. I think we always have to be ready for the war. Like the Latins said “Si vis pacem para bellum” [if you want peace, prepare for war], so we have to be ready for the war. And I think it is only by war that we can liberate the rest of Donbass.

Which is a pity, because the Minsk agreements proposed a political solution…
But you know Poroshenko, his environment, they will never implement these agreements. How can they give freedom to Donbass? How can they give this amnesty? But again, amnesty... Why they should give amnesty to us? THEY are criminals. THEY are killing people. Thousands of people died because of them. It is some surrealistic picture for me.

Some people in Western countries say that the people who died, including the people who died in Makeyevka on Thursday night, were killed by the Russian army. Is the Russian army here?
You know I am living here, I have been living here for a long time, and I have never seen the Russian army. Maybe they are transparent, I do not know. They are invisible.

How do you think it will end on the long term? Do you think there will be created a Novorossian state? Or will the DPR and LPR integrate the Russian federation?
Well, I think there are different possibilities. Of course this conflict will last. It is not a one, two, three years conflict. It will last. Because it needs time, of course, it is clear. And I think it will be Novorossia, one day it will be Novorossia. Maybe like Chechnya, like a part of the Russian federation. But of course it will not be Ukraine anymore. And truly speaking, I think that like in the Ukrainian anthem, Ukraine will die very soon. Can you imagine a country which anthem starts with the line “Ukraine has not died yet”? So I am sure it will. It will, because all these processes are already taking place. It was somehow corrupted from inside.

The problem of Ukraine is that it is an artificial state, created by the USSR, and if they want to push the decommunization to the very end they have to dissolve the country. Because the country was even created from scratch by the USSR, by the communists. So, it is an artificial creation, which will end like all artificial creations: get back to nothing.
Absolutely artificial nation, with this fictional history and so on. The Russian people were brainwashed and now they are jumping on Maidan. I have no words…

What would you like to say to our western audience? To the people from Europe, from Great Britain, form America who will see this video? What would you like to tell them about the situation here, and some recommendation you would like to give them?
Firstly I can say that: People, please, use your own brain. Do not believe in what the television, and mainstream mass media try to tell you. Do not believe it. Try to use your own logic. Try to think. Because when you think, you can understand lots of things. Just do not eat that crap that these mass media are giving to you. I think it is the main message. And another thing that I would like to emphasize is that government and people are two different things. And I know that there are a lot of very good people in America, in European countries, and we can not say that we should destroy America or something… No. It is not OK at all, because the government is not equal to their people. So people are people, and everyone should be friend. There should be a big friendship among all the nations and all the peoples. And only governments try to make these wars and conflicts in their own interest. For money, power and so on.

Very wise speech. Thank you Katya.

Watch the interview in video:

Interview made by Christelle Néant

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