Spring 2014. In the wake of the Maidan pro-European revolution in Kiev, Russia adjoins Crimea and "anti-Maidan" protests erupt in the industrial bastions of southern and eastern Ukraine. Very quickly, the Ukrainian interim government is facing an armed separatist insurgency, with popular appearances, but underpinned by neighboring Russia.
Several Donbass cities, around the mining cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, fall under the control of pro-Russian militias. Among them, Slaviansk, where the Russian media have been working against what the latter call a "fascist coup" in Kiev, Russian locals and paramilitaries are making this pauperized small industrial town the first armed separatist stronghold.
The People's Republic of Donetsk is unilaterally proclaimed on April 7, 2014. Then the weapons begin to speak. The separatists organize their nascent micro-state in Donetsk, while Slaviansk and its 120,000 inhabitants are quickly surrounded by the Ukrainian army. In an atmosphere of fear and confrontation, the barricades rise up and trenches are dug on the outskirts of the city. Shells begin to fall, money runs out in banks and food is scarce in stores.
The Donbass war is just beginning. Workers and taxi drivers improvise militiamen, kalashnikov in hand. But in the old building of the Ukrainian secret services, in the heart of the city, a headquarters improvised, boiling, disturbing, secret. It is controlled by Igor Girkine, aka Strelkov, a former Russian military intelligence officer. Around these very discreet men, the commander "Chief" and his eight soldiers take turns to guard and control any vehicle venturing around.
We eat there, we sleep there, the city center becomes an entrenched military camp. A part of the population acquired at the idea of ​​this "Russian spring" comes to breathe the air of barricades, the time of a coffee or a cigarette. These civilians bring food, girlfriends come to pose. An absurd daily is set up for a few days, between neighborhood life and nascent drama.
On 11 May, a referendum held under the threat of arms will endorse the creation of the Donetsk People's Republic. Since then, Slavyansk has been taken over by the Ukrainian army, but the Donbass has sunk into the war. In four years, along a front line of about 400 kilometers, the war killed 10,300 people, including 2,800 civilians. And the fighting continues.