13th Apr 2024

EU billions for Ukraine means life or death for village mayor

  • A cash assistance programme run by the International Rescue Committee has helped 58-year old Yulia Mordieva purchase wood for heating during the winter months. (Photo: EUobserver)
Listen to article

EU leaders gathering in Brussels will wrangle over €50bn in aid for Ukraine. For some, it is a question of politics and last-minute concessions for Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban and his bid to derail the money.

But in Pravdyne, a village 27km from the front line in south-eastern Ukraine, it is a matter of life or death. "We need this to live," Liubov Shevchenko, Pravdyne's mayor told EUobserver on Wednesday (31 January) of the pending EU aid.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • "We need this to live," says Liubov Shevchenko, Pravdyne's mayor (Photo: EUobserver)

"It is really important for us, without money, we have no hope. Our needs are too great," she said.

It is unclear if the flurry of diplomatic efforts in Brussels to change Orban's mind will work, ahead of Thursday's summit as EU defence ministers announced their promise to deliver 1 million rounds to Ukraine.

The munitions announcement comes at a critical moment.

On Wednesday, Ukraine said it shot down 14 Shahed-136/131 drones and on Tuesday, it said Russia had launched 35 including two S-300 missiles, in what appears to be a typical day.

But a typical day also comes with a renewed Russian offensive ahead of sham presidential elections in March that will see president Vladimir Putin retain his grip on power.

Earlier this week, Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine's chief of defence intelligence, announced the anticipated Russian offensive in Ukraine was already underway.

And Ukraine has also accused Russia of carrying out chemical attacks, following five strikes using likely K-51 grenades carrying chloropicrin, a World War I era poison gas.

Any such attacks are likely to spread fear among those who have already endured and lived under the onslaught of Russian forces.

Cluster bombs, mines and murder

Pravdyne is one of them. Russia's nine-month occupation of the village came with its own set of horrors; cluster bombs, mines and murder.

During the siege, the Russians shot dead seven villagers. In an effort to conceal the crime, they then hid the bodies in a house and blew it up, says the Kherson regional prosecutor's office.

Shevchenko prefers not to talk about it. In her small office, heated with a wood fire stove burner, she's too busy organising the distribution of food and water to the remaining villagers.

More than a dozen or so had gathered outside the small administrative building. The sound of Russian ballistic missiles likely fired from Crimea could be heard roaring overhead.

And the hundreds of small white flags fluttering in the wind in fields surrounding the village was another reminder of Russia's war footprint. The flags were placed as part of a mine sweeping and de-mining operation.

"Do not be afraid if you hear explosions," said Shevchenko.

Mines aside, the greatest needs span from dealing with people's mental health, illnesses, getting a water station, and to rebuilding the shattered lives of villagers, she said.

Before the war, Pravdyne had a population of around 1,500. Today, there are around 800. But when it was liberated in November 2022, only 180 remained.

Among them was 42-year-old Svietlana Supruk. Born in Pravdyne, Svietlana remains terrified of any Russian return having lived through the entire nine-month occupation.

Her husband had been hit by a cluster munition next to the fence in the garden. He survived. But their neighbour lost a hand and another person was killed down the road, she said.

On Tuesday, they celebrated 26 years of marriage together. "I want peace. And peace again," she said.

But Pravdyne is also in desperate need of jobs, says 58-year-old Yulia Mordieva, another local.

"It is too difficult to live without any help, without any assistance. If we could work, it would be less difficult," she said, standing next to a large pile of firewood behind her house.

The wood was purchased through a cash-assistance programme run by the International Rescue Committee to help people through the winter months. Around 1,200 other households in the Kherson region have also been helped.

"This assistance was aimed at helping them secure solid fuel, cover utility expenses, and more during the winter season," says the IRC.

The International Rescue Committee/ECHO is reimbursing travel expenses for EUobserver's trip through Ukraine.


In Novohryhorivka — everything is gone except hope

Andreii Sydor places two Russian tank shells onto a concrete slab of what is left of his two-floor house at the very end of Druzhby street in the village of Novohryhorivka, some 35km from the frontline.


Listen to Euroscopic, our new podcast

We've partnered with Dr Martin Gak and William Glucroft, the reporters behind the Euroscopic podcast, to bring their analysis and our reporting to you in the run-up to the EU elections.

Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps

Ukraine was the biggest single recipient of international aid in 2023 for the second year in a row, but EU aid spending dropped by nearly 8 per cent, according to new data published on Thursday.

Ukraine's farmers slam EU import controls on food products

The paradoxical move to tighten EU import controls on agricultural goods from Ukraine, despite the EU's vocal support for Kyiv, has sparked criticism from Ukrainian farmers. Overall, it is estimated the new measures could cost the Ukrainian economy €330m.


The problem of corruption in Ukraine — and a solution

Sunlight is the best disinfectant— so in a way, it is encouraging to see corruption scandals coming to the fore, as this may deter potential future graft, a key prerequisite for Kyiv's eventual EU accession.

Latest News

  1. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  2. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  3. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  4. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  5. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  6. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  7. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps
  8. Who did Russia pay? MEPs urge spies to give names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us