Ukrainian politician Tatiana Montyan interview: All sides of the conflict suck (article + video)

One of the points I make in an upcoming piece "How to analyze any contested issue by yourself" is that there are four sides to every big story: Two opposing sides, of course, but there are also those that hate both sides, and those genuinely trying to understand the situation.

Those on the 3rd and 4th viewpoints are harder to find, but coverage from them tends to be a lot more useful. Tatiana Montyan is somewhere between those two, and says a lot of very candid and reasonable things.

That said, she's a known nationalist and e.g. tried to close down Russian schools in Kiev some years back. In general, she is viewed as yet another "American stool pigeon" by many in Novorossiya and as another "Putin's agent" by many Kiev nationalists - people are finally catching on to the fact that not everybody who's talking pretty has pure motives or pure past*. But that does not change the fact that she has a very interesting viewpoint. The article is presented as a transcript of some key points from her interview (some sentences condensed/rephrased) and then the video with English voiceover.


The views presented herein represent only the person being translated may not match those of the translator or his collaborators. The translator does not guarantee all of the facts mentioned are true**. The translation is presented as an interesting perspective on the conflict and as an example of the views held by a sizeable segment of the population.

CONTENTS (subjects covered, in order):

Tatiana Montyan talking:
= About the reasons for the conflict
= On Russian government

= About the change of heart in Ukrainian society
= About the gay parade in Kiev
= On Ukrainian politics
= On Jewish domination of Ukrainian government, media and business
= On the reasons for Donbass rebellion, the current situation, and the huge difference between DPR/LPR
= About Mozgovoi and his murder
= About future plans of the oligarchs and direction of the country
= On fixing the mess
= On demonizing Putin
= On civilians suffering in Donbass
= About "de-sovietization" law
= About role of history in politics
= About the nature of a “nation”
= On Ukrainian sovereignty


=== About the reasons for the conflict
<interesting part so moved to top; others are more or less in order>

So, almost a year and a half after the coup in Kiev, a lot of details have already come to light, so what do you think were the aims of the people who engineered it and people who carried it out? Go as high up the ladder as you can.

[Major oligarch] Firtash already said everything completely cynically and honestly under oath in a court in Vienna: Of course, there was a group of oligarchs that wanted the EuroAssociation to be signed for their commercial interests. But the greedy and stupid Europeans gave completely unacceptable economic conditions - and Putin offered Yanukovich a ton of money for free, so Yanik changed his mind. The oligarchs decided "we need to do something about this"...

Maybe they didn't to want to destroy the country quite so much, but when it started gaining traction, Americans joined in with Nuland's cookies, McCain and the whole circus -as always, they thought fighting a proxy war with Russia to the last Ukrainian is a splendid idea! Putin was also completely happy to fight Americans - and also to show the entire world that Ukrainians are completely unable of running a country, that Ukraine is a totally "failed state". And of course, compared to our idiot usurpers, even Putin and his bunch of crooks can be made to look like extremely competent managers. Not to mention that our current president can be controlled through his factory in Lipetsk, Russia.

So everybody's happy - Putin even recognized Poroshenko as the legitimate president - even though he didn't have to, <Poroshneko is unconstitutional>, but he did because it's beneficial to him. Not to mention Crimea, which was given up for two and half billion <cash>, as we now know.

So now Crimea is being dismantled**, similar to what Americans did to Latvia - they turned that country into a border checkpoint, and Putin will turn Crimea into a military base.

I think that all these pointless Ukrainian checkpoints at the entrance are intentional, because they block traffic, they block tourists, and core of Crimean economy was random tourists - because the people who come there on organized tours don't spend money in local economy and they don't buy local food, they have everything included in the resorts. So the plan is very simple, especially since the Crimean channel bringing water for agriculture has been blocked by our government. The Tatars will probably leave to Turkey, because all the businesses, restaurants and all that stuff aren't going to be viable anymore. The retired will slowly die out naturally. So what will be left are shipbuilding facilities, the big resorts which now look cute and have really been restored - unlike Ukraine that has never invested local infrastructure - so it will be much like what America did do with the Baltics, where for example in Latvia only the center of Riga is still buzzing, the rest is completely dead, and the schoolchildren leave abroad as entire classes the moment they graduate.

So everybody's happy, except Ukrainians.

Well, and most Europeans are starting to ask questions - "Why do we need this?". Officially, they lost a hundred billion due to sanctions, really, much more, and Russians are laughing at them - "Okay, Spaniards, we make our own ham now, where you going to sell yours?". And of course, the worse the situation Ukraine gets, the sooner crowds of our criminals will start running across the border to them, and what are they gonna do with em? So, for the sake of American ambitions, EU bit itself in the penis. And I think they deserve everything their greed has caused - if they gave us even somewhat acceptable deal, Yanik might have taken it.

So I don't think what happened has been really planned by anybody. The process has gone the completely out of control from the very beginning - because you can't start a fire in your common home! You never know what's going to catch fire first! It's dumb to start chopping down a tree that you are all sitting on! But turns out we had plenty of degenerates who thought that they won't get hurt when the country goes down. So oligarchs have devalued their own factories, and their own country.

And the main beneficiary is China! Because America forced Russia into China's arms. And I think China will eventually engulf and assimilate Russia now.

By the way, last April, "Xinhua" - the official press agency of the Republic of China, has voiced the opinion of the Chinese Communist Party on the issue. It says, roughly : "America and Europe have destroyed the Ukrainian state and plunged the country into civil war. Of course, they will not help Ukrainians fix the mess caused by their meddling, because they are bankrupt both financially and morally. Their democracy is only empty talk, and in practice all the "progressive" attempts to export it only lead to untold human suffering." The Chinese already said this over a year ago.

=== On Russian government
[interesting part so moved to top; others are more or less in order]

The Russian government it doesn't seem to be very homogeneous, not as much as people think. Do you see, in Russian government, some forces that are benevolent?

I know some people who are reasonable, but I won't say their names, because they're waiting until Putin would naturally die or get pushed away from power. They think it's easier to let Putin and his gang steal for ten more years than to destroy the country like we did in the Maidan. And they're completely right.

=== About the change of heart in Ukrainian society:

The attitude in society is changing, even the most brainwashed now understand that there is something wrong with this war. Fewer and fewer people are willing to go volunteer to die and get eaten by dogs in some encirclement. Fewer and fewer people donate money and food to private organizations supplying the Army. And of course, things like the Military Prosecutor General talking live on air above the police battalions raping and killing people in the warzone does not encourage people to go join <the good fight>. Basically, people that didn't understand it with their brains finally started understanding it through their empty wallets and empty fridges.

Ever since last November the wartime economics has taken hold of Ukraine. If a country goes on wartime economy even for a couple month, it takes hold – and it's like a hard drug addiction, an addict can only be saved by chaining him to a lamppost and not giving him any drugs. The first time I went to East Ukraine, our bus, which was packed with poor locals that took a day to make the trip that used to take mere hours, was stopped and extensively searched by both sides, 6 or 7 times. But through the windows we could see columns of semi-trucks going through both UAF and NAF checkpoints without any delays.
So that was complete "proof in the pudding" for me that this war is a sham. This is "wartime economy" will continue until both sides run out of people who still believe that they are fighting for a cause, and not for their bosses wallets.

Attitude of the population to the government is clear: the Prime Minister’s approval rating isn't just the size of a molehill - a molehill compared to his rating is Mount Everest. The Narodny Front party is going down in flames, and they are stealing as much as they can while they still can.

Journalist Boyko recently described very nicely how the Police Minister Avakov and Co. set fire to that oil depot by Kiev in order to take over that poor gas station chain - and by the way, the idiot Head of State Security Nalivaichenko has accused the Prosecutor General even though the Prosecutor General's men were actually trying to save that chain. Not because of any respect for the law, of course, but because of their own financial interests, but anyway. So the head of State Security has spoken against the Prosecutor General, made it clear to everybody that he is completely retarded, so they voted in the Parliament to remove him. Moreover, some people even managed to get something for voting – for example, <head of Samopomosh' fraction> Sadovoi, who supposedly has bargained for a permission to put his men as the head of the local customs service and the Prosecutor's office. So in general, that's how it is.

=== About the gay parade in Kiev:

A European gay parade is a fun and civilized festival where the worst freaks are actually straight actors hired by local city councils to attract tourists - at least regarding Berlin parade that was told to me by the local city administration representatives. They saw this as self-evident, because over there, like everywhere else, gays are not really inclined to wear latex out in public - they live completely normal lives like ordinary citizens they are. So to show the tourists the worst freaks they have to hire heterosexual actors who don't care what they have to wear, as long as the City admin pays.

What we had here was an Equality March, the point of which was to attack attention to the fact that our gays and other LGBT don't have any civil rights - they don't exist from the viewpoint of our civil and family law. And this is wrong because they are citizens of Ukraine just like everybody else, they pay taxes just like everybody else and they should have the same rights as everybody else. They don't ask for gay marriage, official registration in the city administration legislation and church, for now, because that's not how our country and our people are. But they want to have the opportunity to register a partnership and the get "relatives" status for people who are not related by blood. That's all they want. Inheritance rights, visitation rights in hospitals, etc. So, as always happens in our country, a simple Equality March has been called a "gay parade", which it totally wasn't.

And the funny thing is, I didn't see Lyasko or Pashinski there, but I was there, cordoned off by policemen, there were homemade firecracker grenades*** packed with nails and bolts exploding around us, and I was laughing at the LGBT leaders. Because you know, our local gay activists are all, of course, "pro-revolutionary", "pro-European", so I was like - "Guys, when you were jumping at the Maidan Square with those extremists, you liked them because back then they were throwing these grenades at the defending police and the poor unarmed cadets, and you liked that! Now, this scum is throwing them at you, and suddenly you don't like it? How come? You're not “revolutionary brothers” with them anymore?"

=== About the reasons for the conflict:
<moved to top>

=== On Ukrainian politics

So in the current Ukrainian regime in there are two large on groups centered around the Prime Minister and the president…

They aren't really "centered" - those crook can s don't have friends, they have interests. Groups are constantly rearranged based on who managed to screw over whom, and everybody's planning to screw over each other all the time. For example, Firtash decided to blab his mouth in an Austrian court, and the President decided that's enough to kick Firtash's people out of government - because they had an agreement not to talk about the agreement they had. <Nalivaichenko was one of these men. Also he was fired for snitching to Americans about corruption in the President’s faction>. The next rearrangement is going to happen after the elections...

=== On Jewish domination of Ukrainian government, media and business

In the Ukraine currently, the government, business, mass media - it's all dominated by Jewish people, and not the nicest representatives of that ethnicity. And they are less than 1% of the total population. What do you think of this disproportional representation?

I have nothing against Jews, nothing at all. I don't think I'm dumber than them. It's an old quote, attributed to Churchill - "Why aren't Englishmen anti-Semitic? They do not consider themselves to be dumber than the Jews".

Also, the Jews themselves don't think Poroshenko and all those other guys are Jews - they consider them a-holes, Yid traitors, etc. Read what our prominent Jewish people are writing.

Yes, of course, a nation that for many years - millennia, even, needed to develop their brains and their solidarity, of course that's an advantage. But if anybody thinks that Jews are any different from other ethnicities - they are much the same. Look at Israel - they have much the same disagreements that we have over here. So, in Ukraine, they have better education,have their social capital, so that's what happens - <they get to the top>. This isn't because somebody's naturally superior or inferior, it is not good or bad, that's just how it is.

<But the fun thing is that> all the nationalists were screaming "Glory to Ukraine", "Ukraine for Ukrainians", and now we have Georgians, <Americans and Latvians> in top government positions. They even no longer have a law that a government official has to speak Ukrainian in official capacity.

=== On the reasons for Donbass rebellion, the current situation, and the huge difference between DPR/LPR

I think the situation in Donbass was initially fueled by the local oligarchs to blackmail the Kiev government, saying –“If you pressure us, we will split”. And Russia immediately thought - “How awesome and very convenient!”

By now, Plotnickiy is controlled from Russia, and I think Zaharchenko as well. DPR and LPR are similar in that respect – although they are completely different types of government, there are now checkpoints and customs between them, so they are two very different republics that are not administratively connected. You know, Donetsk always considered Lugansk their inferior younger brothers.

The situation in the DPR is much more organized - back in April 4 was the point where all the non-organized armed bands had to either his band or integrate into the DPR Army. After that all the bands were forcibly disarmed, those caught on rapes, robberies, drug dealing etc. were sent to remove minefields were most of them died, or shot on the spot. In the LPR, the situation is much different - the territories controlled by various bands are still present. For example, Mozgovoi has been killed but his group still controls territory, there are other groups like Dremov, <Kozityn's men>, etc. Plotnickiy is mostly sitting in Lugansk, being accused of stealing humanitarian aid. And that's how LPR exists.

Russia helps both republics to survive, of course, <with aid and currency>. So the situation is frozen for now. People are making a ton of money on various checkpoints, there is a whole smuggling business all around there, so you can get into the DPR and LPR without any ID because there are "stalkers" who know how to get through the minefields, know how to get around checkpoints. The large checkpoints make money on large convoys, and there are tons of small checkpoints on country roads that are controlled by anybody who can. There are even horror stories of a car coming up to a rural checkpoint, "peasants" getting out, killing everyone and taking over the checkpoint, and taking bribes instead of those killed. So that's how they live. As I said, wartime economy will not stop by itself, just like a drug addict will not stop taking drugs, so it can only be stopped by USA, Russia or Europe -,but they don't want to do it for now.

Do you consider the national elites the organizers, the oligarchs?

How can you consider our oligarchs to be independent? Of course they are controlled from abroad, much like the DPR/LPR government controlled by Russia. It's a fight between Russia and US to the last Ukrainian.

Why do you think Donetsk and Lugansk have not unified all the past year?

I say again - those are completely different entities ruled by a completely different people with completely different interests. I'd been to both - they are different countries, different continents even. The people are wrong to confuse them, there is nothing in common in any way. Both are controlled by Moscow, but the situation is different ... there is even a different mentality. In DPR - they got centralized, very quickly organized, exterminated or exiled those who could not be controlled, and in LPR all that is still going on.

So how "People's" are the People's Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk?

Somewhat more "People's" than here, that’s true.
They got rid of some of the oligarchs - actually the only big one left is Ahmetov, and they also make him pay up. In the DPR , I was talking on the Oplot TV channel that they took from Ahmetov, I was given a ride by a their minister on a car they took from the oligarch Kluev, and they told me they took the Starobeshevo Power Plant from Yanukovich - as a result they pay half the price for electricity that we do!

And the funniest thing is that I'm being accused of riding in the car taken from an oligarch by force by the same people who took over Yanukovich's house and Pshonka's properties in Kiev! Do these people think at all?

Do the governments of the People's republics and the Kiev government work together?

Of course! They are just stealing whatever they can. By now, everybody talks about giant cargo shipments going between DPR and LPR and Kiev, while people are fighting each other the frontlines. Of course, this is impossible without the governments on both sides being complicit - I do not quite know who specifically is involved, I doubt we'll ever find out, but it's clear they work together because otherwise they wouldn't be making such huge shipments.

<It takes about $10,000 per semi truck to get through the "blockade" > - it depends on the price of the goods in the truck . For example, I heard that being allowed to control a checkpoint you have to pay the military bosses a million dollars a month. So if you pay a million dollars just to stand at the checkpoint, you can imagine how much people are making. As for who physically controls those checkpoints - it's not clear. When I was getting out of the DPR, with a smuggler, we were driving through a rural checkpoint and I'm not even sure which side it was on, but there was a guy who lives in Kiev in my neighborhood, he even recognized me and let me through without paying. So I have no idea who manages those things - I told you, in the morning it could be one set of guys, and in the evening somebody can come up, kill them and take over the checkpoint. I don't exclude the possibility that at some checkpoints it can even happen more than once per day. You know how they say - "In the bad part of Kiev, an iPhone can change hands several times a day, and outlive a quite few owners". That's how it is.

=== About Mozgovoi and his murder:

He was a non-typical commander. He was charismatic, played a local Che Guevara, really tried to pass justice in the area he controlled... He was confiscating drugs by the pound and burning them on the central square of Alchevsk. He personally came to resolve conflicts - almost down to family squabbles. He was playing Robin Hood, and people loved him. This is shown by the number of people who came to his funeral - the people now saying bad things about him, I don't think such a number of people would even bother coming to spit on their graves if they die.

But Mozgovoi was very inexperienced at running a city, and running any sort of government, really. The maximum he could do is deliver humanitarian aid, organized by him for the population. He had four free canteens running for the people. When I was there, he was arguing with the Russian customs because they weren't letting through food, and he was shouting - what will I feed my soldiers, my civilians, children in our kindergartens... He didn't much care for the elections or stuff like that - non-typical.

Anybody could have killed him - from local drug dealers for burning all the drugs, to anybody else, he did not fit in there and did not have powerful backers. There is only one road there - plant an EID, sit and wait for him to come. And that's that's how it happened. As far as Moscow's backing, he was due to go there, but did not make it in time.

=== About future plans of the oligarchs and direction of the country:

I have no idea what the oligarchs think. I don't think they think far - the are just stealing what they can, while they can.

And the people are being conscripted, sixth wave of it already - people being caught literally on the city buses, students are caught in universities... People are running away - I was asked what is the journalist Kotsaba In jail for - he's there for protesting illegal forced conscription, because he was protesting against the government grabbing all those people, stealing the food they are supposed to get, stealing the ammo and weapons they are supposed to have and selling them to the DPR and LPR... And the people obviously have realized all this by now, and have no desire to die in some encirclement to fill the oligarch's wallets.

So obviously conscription isn’t going very well - people understood that they are being basically used as cattle for slaughter.

Interviewer: If Donbass completely leaves Ukraine, and after Crimea, could that trigger a process like in Yugoslavia, could Ukraine split into several fragments?

Montyan: Where will Donbass go? Russia clearly stated they don't want Donbass.

How will DPR, LPR survive independently? I have no idea. As underrecognized states? Kiev under the control of the nationalists, and DPR and LPR by themselves - they are not capable of surviving. They will slowly rot, the fabric of the state would keep on failing and degrading further, so without external interference, without some reformatting, this situation cannot be resolved. This situation cannot be solved from the inside -by people inside the cage. Only the people who set it up can stop it, and for now they have no desire to do so.

= On fixing the mess:

Fixing the country is not that hard, and wouldn't take that long, but for now, nobody wants it. I could fix it in a couple years, probably. The mechanisms are commonly known, they had been used successfully multiple times - as long as you have the desire to do it, it's not hard. But nobody wants to do it! The elite needs to be at least minimally interested in not just robbing the country for its resources, but you to think about the future. For now, the people who are getting to the top are those looters from the checkpoints - because, for now, that's the most profitable business. When it becomes less profitable, then things may change - that's basic economics. In Ukraine, we can see how capital takes over the people and the state, the judiciary, the executive... All the branches of government and all the the state-owned corporations are being taken over by oligarchs, . Now they're talking about actually handing over the Customs Service to a private corporation. Thus, state monopolies are being replaced by oligarch monopolies.

District governments are a sham, local governments are a sham - because every "state-owned" local government service is actually being controlled by specific people who get money.

When there's no open mechanisms showing where the money comes into the state and how it gets out, then the game turns into "King of the Hill" - whoever climbs to the top steals as much as he can before he gets kicked off, then he runs away to another country with the stolen money and laughs those he left behind.

=== On Russian government (originally here, moved to top)

=== On demonizing Putin:

Putin is just some guy. What's the difference who is the talking head at the top? He's just a <product of a system>. Here, Poroshenko is already the exact same thing as Yanukovich, exactly. There are cartoons - you take Yanukovich, curl his hair, you get Poroshenko!

It doesn't matter who "Putin" is, doesn't matter what the name is. They are determined by what the country is. Don't like Yanukovich? Look in the mirror.

The president is the same as the country, as the people. I ask them - you don't like Yanukovich? Is it him putting trash in your yard? Are the oligarchs making penis drawings all over your elevator? Which government official urinated by your door? It is done by the population, by you, and because you are like that - Yanukovich is like that. It's like that in every country.

I you don't find any compassion for journalists who are put in jail just for voicing their opinion, why do you ask for justice for yourself? If you are ready to throw homemade grenades at police, why do you think cops should not beat you up? That's so weird - <those people don't understand> that justice has to be for everybody, not just “justice for us and injustice for our enemies”.

=== On civilians suffering in Donbass:

What do you mean i don't talk about civilians in warzone? I pity all civilians in the warzone, because they being shot at by all sides. They are stuck there, in this zone of chaos, they're being screwed over by everybody.

I do have to say people don't believe me, <and that's scary>.
When I came back from my first trip to the East, I told them Ukrainian Army nearly killed me at the Alchevsk cemetery - people tell me "it's Mozgovoi". He was standing right next to me! "
Then it's Dremov" - he was on the phone telling us to run!
"Then it's Kozitsyn" - he was in a complete different direction, look at the maps! Still, nobody believes me.
In the end, after I showed pictures of all the gravestones damaged with schrapnel and maps of the area, some did... But people were really convinced <separatists are shelling themselves>.

But yes, both sides are shooting. Armies don't much care for civilians. In Lugansk, for example, UAF were standing at the Metallist and shelling the city with unguided rockets - I was where they landed, even visited local businessman Aleksandr Nigoves, found Grad pieces by his destroyed house, there's plenty of videos and all... Eventually UAF hit something - either in Russia, or right on the border, so Russian Army came in through Izvarino and crushed them, went through the positions <UAF set up in towns> Khryaschevatoe and Novosvetlovka, and wiped them off the face of the earth. Chased the UAF into an encirclement, and left 5 days later. In Novosvetlovka, 300 out of 600 houses are destroyed, around 600 locals perished.
And who are the good guys here? That's how it is. That's war. It doesn't have a good and a bad side - it's murder, horror and suffering.

Do you think something similar could happen in Kiev?

How can I know what's going to happen in this nuthouse? What goes through the sick mind of some idiot currently holding heavy weapons? Anything can happen. In the near future, more people will come back from a from the war zone and join street gangs, especially when the standard of living goes down. Even now, they are shooting cops with AKs to rob a gas station for $40, what's going to happen next?

=== About "de-Sovietization" law:

Yes, they have nothing better to do than rename everything. Let's destroy the factories and highways, because the damn communists built them.

Everything we see here, everything in Ukraine, was built by the Soviet Union. And a lot of it is on the edge of the physical collapse. 70 to 90% of infrastructure - various sewerage, heating, power lines - they're starting to fall down. Since "independence", they were patched up when they failed, but no investments in replacement or renewal. And when the communist-built houses start falling down - that's going to be real hell... But for now, the <dark Soviet legacy> still stands.

=== About role of history in politics:

I'm completely amazed by the people who let the past affect their present and future. History is for historians, for professional historians! I would personally prohibit using history in propaganda - because history already happened, <it's over and done with>! The historical figures being put on the posters that marchers run with - those people are gone! They lived their lives, in their conditions, and bringing them into the present is completely retarded!

Live your own lives, here and now, and don't try to use historical figures in your propaganda - because the vast majority of those historical figures, if you met them face to face, would chop off your head as soon as you started spouting your drivel!

=== About the nature of a “nation”:

Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian nations - is it one nation that's been divided, or no?

No. I don't think a nation exists as a separate entity. For me, an African from Papua New Guinea who believes in civil rights is closer to me than a nationalist extremist beating people in Kiev. I refuse to think I'm part of the same nation as them, and they probably don't think I'm part of "their" nation either.

But that said, we can live in the same country, as long as it has laws and they do not have the right to attack people. They can have their views, if they don't have the capacity to make their sick fantasies a reality. As long as we have a decent civil and criminal law, and have the capability to punish those who violate it, that's all we need for people to coexist.

Take Jews - they are so different! Some of them have gay parades in Jerusalem, run around in latex, and others walk around in complete black garb and pray constantly. And they live together in the same country, don't kill each other, because they have decent civil law, all the questions had been solved, each millimeter of land has a clear established owner, and there's nothing to argue about. They can talk about their views on TV and newspapers but that's it.

=== On Ukrainian sovereignty:

What kind of sovereignty are you even talking about? Ukraine's territory is broken into pieces controlled by various foreign powers. <The "revolution" only made it worse>: if you break apart a crappy shed, you will only be able to build several smaller and crappier sheds out of the fragments. So now they built Kiev shed, DPR and LPR sheds in place of what once was a decent country.

VIDEO (English voiceover)

< I recommend clicking the gear symbol on the bottom-right of the video and increasing playback speed to 1.5x, that will save you 30 minutes and is completely understandable).

Previous video with Montyan:


*Take Novorossiya's recent darling Shilova, for example - she managed to get involved with both Yanukovich's corruption and Lyashko's radicals before becoming a "separatist", not to mention being a member of half a dozen political parties before. Of course, she could have an honest change of heart _this_time_... but that's what she must have said many times before.

** About Montyan's points on Crimea: Crimea saw over twice the amount of airport traffic this year compared with the last, so the economy is gaining traction. Yes, I bet the economy still suffers overall with the peninsula being in a complete blockade by Ukraine (not only people and goods but also water and often power), and only joined to Russia by a ferry. Still, “littlehirosima” is currently in Crimea and tells me life is good there for now. And once a bridge gets built, or nationalists get chased out of Kiev, it should get a lot better.

*** "Homemade firecracker grenades" - Ukraine has no laws against selling extremely powerful firecrackers. They are almost at hand grenade level, and can definitely kill or maim, especially with nails&bolts taped as fragments. Here's a video of such a "big firecracker" shredding a toilet (common pastime in East Europe, heh). The firecracker is actually far from the biggest one, but the video is just hilarious: