The war is essentially over in eastern Ukraine, but peace hasn't yet begun. A visit to the self-proclaimed mini-state known as the People's Republic of Luhansk shows that the road back to normal life is long and full of obstacles.
It is rare for Western journalists to be allowed to report from inside the self-declared republic. The criteria used by its communications ministry to grant permits are unclear. But such permits do, apparently, exist. A report from the so-called People’s Republic, with words by Der Spiegel’s Christian Esch.
At Stanytsia Luhanska, the border crossing dividing the breakaway territory from areas controlled by Kyiv, pensioners struggle across a broken bridge over the Donets river. Suitcases, baby strollers and coffins are carefully carried over its bombed-out surface. It’s the only crossing for many miles, connecting the 1.5 million residents of the Luhansk People’s Republic to families, friends and business partners on the other side of the former front line. In Luhansk itself, the smaller of the two main cities of the Donbass coal mining region, shops are largely empty, and the main hotel, bullet holes still visible in its windows, sees few guests. The city suffered heavily from fighting in the summer of 2014.