Vladimir Putin and Russian official media today use the old tsarist term Novorossiya (New Russia) for describing southern regions of Ukraine. These territories along with Crimea were won from the Ottoman Empire by Catherine the Great in 18th century. They were made a part of Ukrainian Republic only after the Bolshevik revolution. Many Russian nationalists believe that these territories should belong to Russia.
This April Washington Post published a detailed article about the history and specific problems of Novorossiya.
Here is the map from this article.
There are two big industrial cities in eastern Novorossiya: Dnepropetrovsk and Donetsk. Each of them has population of about a million. One can see on the map that of these two cities only Donetsk is the center of pro–Russian activity. Today Donetsk is the center of battles. The city is in ruins, practically turned into a ghost town.
Meanwhile Dnepropetrovsk experiences peaceful, normal life. Why?
This spring, when pro–Russian activity started in South–Eastern Ukraine, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov appointed a multibillionaire Igor Kolomoysky the governor of the Dnepropetrovsk region (Population: 3,307,795).
Kolomoysky is rated as the second or third richest person in Ukraine. According to Forbes, his net worth is $3 billion; according to the Correspondent, it is $6.5 billion. Kolomoysky is also the president of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine. He is also a major employer in the region.
According to the Wall Street Journal, by the time Kolomoyskyi “arrived in the governor’s office, pro-Russia groups were seizing control of government buildings in nearby provinces, and moving to do the same in Dnepropetrovsk. He moved quickly on several fronts…”
Wall Street Journal interviewed the deputy governor, Boris Filatov, who said:
“Mr. Filatov said he was assigned to defuse tensions by holding meetings with various political groups and listening to their complaints. He and Mr. Kolomoisky met with veterans groups and promised more patriotic education in the schools, and with Communists, to whom he promised to pay respects to some historic monuments. Local fascists ‘wanted to do more sports,’ Mr. Filatov said. ‘So we gave them gyms.’ “
As Mr. Filatov tells it, pro-Russia demonstrations in the city at first drew about 1,500 people, but soon their numbers dwindled to 500, then 300, “and soon there weren’t any meetings at all.”
Soon thereafter the biggest meeting in the history of the city took place. More than ten thousand people gathered together in the center of the city, holding Ukrainian flags.
Here is the video depicting them singing Ukrainian Anthem.
On June 27, a big rally took place In Dnepropetrovsk against terrorism and in support of Israel.
Here are some photos of the rally from the web site of the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish Community:
Russian propaganda presents the war in the Eastern Ukraine as the war against anti-Semitic Ukrainian Nazis, led by the ultra-nationalistic and militant “Right Sector” party. But at the rally in Dnepropetrovsk, the floor was given to the well-known and popular activist, a head of Dnepropetrovsk division of the “Right Sector” Andrew Denisenko, who started his speech with the words “Shalom friends!”.
Andrew Denisenko said: “We are dealing not just with the Putin’s Empire, we are dealing with the Evil Empire, which is fighting for the souls of Ukrainians and people around the world. In this struggle – the struggle of values - the Jewish community, particularly in the city of Dnepropetrovsk, stands shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian patriots. For me the defining principal is ‘learn who is your friend, when you are in trouble, and never betray the friend’.
“I think this is the commandment of the normal, human, international coexistence, which today inspires us all. We see that today our friends in Israel, among them thousands of immigrants from Ukraine, are threatened to be killed just because they are Jews. Today, we see that we are threatened to be killed because we are Ukrainians. I am grateful to the people of Israel and the Jewish community. I want them to feel our support in the struggle for national independence, with our shoulder, and, if and when needed, with our military aid.”
Kolomoysky not only established peace in the Dnepropetrovsk Region. In April 2014 he offered a bounty for the capture of militants fighting in Ukraine with Russian passports. He also is believed to have spent $10 million to help to strengthen Ukrainian Army.
Russia asked Interpol to put Kolomoysky on its wanted list. On 2 July 2014 a Russian District Court authorized the arrest in absentia the creator of peace in Dnepropetrovsk for “organizing the killing of civilians“.