The self-proclaimed Luhansk Republic’s second day of existence was marred by an assassination attempt on its leader Valery Bolotov, separatists announced on May 13. They accused the authorities in Kyiv of plotting the attack.
“Today at about 11 a.m. there was an assassination attempt on Valery Bolotov. He is wounded but there is no risk for his life or health,” said Vasily Nikitin, a spokesman of Luhansk separatists, adding that Bolotov lost a lot of blood but is recovering in a private clinic.
Nikitin said that Bolotov was shot in his car on his way to negotiations over the future of Luhansk Oblast.
Bolotov was one of the leaders of armed men who on April 6 captured the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) headquarters in Luhansk and later captured the regional administration building and other government offices in the city.
Since then, Bolotov proclaimed himself the “people’s governor” of Luhansk Oblast while Ukraine’s Prosecutor General opened three criminal cases against him for separatism.
On the evening on May 12, Bolotov showed up on the stage in center of Luhansk, surrounded by two men armed with Kalashnikovs. He greeted a crowd by proclaiming the creation of an independent Luhansk Republic based on the results of Sunday’s referendum, which is illegal under Ukrainian law.
“We believe that an attack on Bolotov was Kyiv’s response to the people’s referendum, whose results we announced yesterday. From today, his first deputy, Hennady Tserkalov, is in charge,” Nikitin said.
He added that separatists knew about “hunt” over Bolotov and that a reward of $1 million was announced for his captivity.
Nikitin said that the Luhansk Republic was functioning normally and its leaders were working on creation of its government bodies and even checkpoints on its borders. Separatists were also planning to create special stamps of their republic and were thinking about creating passports for the breakaway region.
Nikitin announce that soon they were planning to give an ultimatum to Ukrainian soldiers based on the territory of Luhansk Oblast to either swear their allegiance to the new republic or leave as they will be regarded as occupiers.
To prove the efficiency of their government, Nikitin allowed several journalists to observe the work of government offices located inside of Luhansk Regional State Administration, which has been under the control of separatists since late April.
But people working there didn’t seem happy.
Judge assistant of Luhansk Commercial Court Margaryta Ukraintseva said she worked as usual "regardless for what authorities."
“I don’t know to whom we now submit,” said Tatiana, a worker of the Luhansk Commercial Court, glancing at Nikitin. “But the court itself is still functioning as a state court of the Luhansk region of Ukraine.” She refused to give her last name out of fear of persecution by both separatists and Ukraine’s state authorities.
Nikita, an economist working at the health department of the Luhansk administration, said that Ukraine’s government keeps sending money despite the turbulence. "But we don’t really know what’s going to be next, as you see we have no police on the streets, no ruler,” Nikita said, also too afraid to give his surname. "What if Ukraine decided to start anti-terrorist operation right here, who knows what’s going to be with us.”
But the acting head of Luhansk regional administration, Iryna Verihina, who called the referendum on May 11 illegal, wasn’t present in either her office or even in Luhansk. Nikita said that Verihina had to flee the city.
“We would really like to meet and talk to her,” Nikita said. “But as we know she ran away and is now hiding in Svatovsky district behind backs of National Guard.”
Editor’s Note: This article has been produced for Kyivpost with support from the project www.mymedia.org.ua, financially supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, and implemented by a joint venture between NIRAS and BBC Media Action.The content in this article may not necessarily reflect the views of the Danish government, NIRAS and BBC Action Media.