Russian-backed separatists have plundered the rebel-held regions in Ukraine’s industrial heartland and created an economy stricken with fear, hypocrisy and contradiction. How has business transformed since the rebels took control of Ukraine’s east?

Since March 2014, the rebels of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) have stolen over 50 state-owned mines, raided military-owned companies and looted foreign and Ukrainian-owned businesses.

They have claimed that all businesses on the occupied territory belong to them. At first rebels wanted to nationalize industry and power generation, bringing them into the lap of the Republic, severing all links with Ukraine and creating a self-sufficient state.
But this did not happen.

Today, small and medium businesses are destroyed, stolen or forced to register in the new Republic. But the giant factories owned by oligarchs remain, for the most part, unmolested.

Kyiv buys coal and electricity from the separatist region, and supplies the territory with gas and water. Companies on rebel land who pay taxes in Ukraine can trade between the borders, but to operate in the separatist zone, firms must pay taxes to the rebels. While business contributes to financing both Kyiv and Donetsk, many retirees now receive two pensions.

Yet gunfire is still heard every day - and casualties on both sides continue to rise.

With Russia reducing its financial assistance for the zone since mid-2015, a dual-state has emerged of mutually-dependent adversaries, locked in an abusive marriage, with little sign of divorce or reconciliation.

Through interviews, storytelling, data analysis, pictures and video, The Donbass Paradox investigates how business has transformed since the rebels took control of Ukraine’s east.

Using a cross-border team of journalists from Moldova, Ukraine and the UK, the project showcases a panorama of interviews with international experts, politicians and businesses from the EU, Commonwealth of Independent States and the USA, as well as citizens of the war-torn areas.

Project by Michael Bird (UK), Lina Vdovii (Moldova) and Yana Tkachenko (Ukraine). Photos © Irina Gorbasyova (Ukraine).

Team members

Michael Bird

Michael Bird is an award-winning journalist and writer based in Bucharest, Romania.

Michael Bird

Lina Vdovîi

Lina Vdovîi is a Moldovan-born journalist. She started working as a reporter for Opinia Studenteasca in Iasi, Romania.

Yana Tkachenko

Donetsk-based Yana Tkachenko has been working in various print and online publications in Ukraine, including as a journalist, proof-reader and chief editor of a newspaper.

Grant of €9.400 allocated on 29/06/2015


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