Friday, October 24, 2014

Mud and Loathing on Russia-Ukraine Border - Bloomberg

Tamara Nekrasova never really hated Ukrainians, not even when a shell fired from Ukrainian territory struck her house just a short walk from the Russia-Ukraine border, sending her to the hospital and killing a neighbor. It wasn’t until later, after months of relentless anti-Ukraine reports on Russian television, that anger and antipathy began to consume the 55-year-old former mineworker.

“I feel it now,” Nekrasova said as she packed boxes to move out of her wood-frame hut, where holes from the shrapnel still scar the walls. “I just feel it from the things they’re showing on TV.”

I met Nekrasova on a six-day journey along the Russia-Ukraine frontier -- 2,164 kilometers (1,345 miles) of highways, two-lane roads and muddy paths. Not so long ago, the border was a mostly imaginary line through wheat fields and birch forests. To most Russians, it meant what it did in Soviet times, when it meant nothing at all. That ended with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea in March and the ensuing conflict with Ukraine.

Since then, both sides have plowed up fields and cleared forests to build defensive earthworks, and the locals are erecting equally formidable barriers in their minds. As a Muscovite who was just 8 when the Soviet Union collapsed, I’d never felt any animosity toward or from Ukraine. Like most of my countrymen, I considered Ukraine a sister nation -- different but not quite foreign. And like other Russians, I saw nothing unusual or wrong with friendships, families, and marriages that straddled the border.

Complete story at - Mud and Loathing on Russia-Ukraine Border - Bloomberg

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