The South East of Ukraine is called Donbass, the heavily industrialised areas of Donetsk and Lugansk are also the two prominent regions of this area. Following the chaos that engulfed Ukraine during and after the Euromaidan revolution in 2014, the two regions imploded into a viscous conventional war between Russian backed rebels and the Ukrainian armed forces. Whilst the intensity of the fighting has subsided slightly, the region is still an active war zone and the two rebel controlled regions now exist as self declared ‘people’s Republics’.
Inside the republics can be described as a dystopian, paralell world, the modern, once gleaming football stadium in Donetsk is now riddled with shrapnel from artillery fire, the overgrown pitch is now used to host matches between different rebel factions and the giant banners of the former players of Shahktar Donetsk have been torn down and replaced with those of decorated rebel fighters. Billboards which once advertised iPhones now feature propaganda to take up arms against the enemy of Ukraine and the US and to make children for the republic.
Security situation in Donbass:
The fighting in the Donbass region is not as fierce as it was between 2015 – 2017. Previously each town and city was under control of various rebel factions, many of whom were criminal in nature and would intimidate and threaten foreign journalists and filmmakers, today the militias have been regulated under the control of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Armies and are far more stable. However, the region is still a fully active conflict zone. It is not advised to enter without previous zone experience unless you have a security team and strong contacts on the ground.
Access for filmmakers and journalists in Donbass:
Entry to the Donetsk and Lugansk requires you to enter via Rostov-on-Don in Russia due to being required to cross the frontline when entering via the Ukrainian border. Entry is only granted obtaining vouched for clearance with the border authorities which takes up to two months and must be done by a resident of the republics. Pioneer Media have been operating in the region for the past three years and through our mixture of on the ground contacts we can guarantee entry permits, journalist and film permits as well as access to local fixers. We will deal with all the bureaucracy and entrance applications on the ground. Similarly, we can arrange film logistics within the country at ease. Staff and translators can be found for very affordable rates.