Today, for many people injured in Donbas, being examined, as well as communicating with government officials to obtain disability status, is difficult both physically and psychologically. They told Promote Ukraine their gruesome stories shelling of civilians in Donbas. And we investigated what happens to the “state machine” that passes through such people.

War first hand:

“When a person is killed, he can’t even understand what is happening to him. I was walking, riding a bicycle, and now I’m lying down. I want to get up and go, but there is no body. And then the thought comes – I was killed. Someone told me that a man does not hear his death, not a fragment, not a bullet. If you hear, you are alive, and a person doesn’t hear his death. I didn’t hear. And then comes the thought – it killed me, I probably went and stepped on a stretch. It spins in your head, you think everything, you understand everything, but there is no body. And then comes the confusion, how did they kill me, how is that? All! Life on this earth is over.

Then I was in the hospital for 2 days, there was shelling, my daughter took me to Kramatorsk. I saw aggressive militants waving machine guns as we drove. We drove instead of 15 minutes for almost two hours by decoys. When the doctor saw my hand, he said: “Аmputate!”

“There was mortar shelling at the Forest Market. My friend was selling raspberries. The shelling started, he hid in the building but saw that woman start stealing his raspberries. He ran out and at this time exploded, a fragment tore out a kidney. The hospital removed the kidney, gallbladder, and gave the third group”.

“I came to the bus station to my mother, she was after a stroke. It started firing, we went in, sat down, as if it had passed. I was at the porch, I wanted to change the wheel in the car. At this time, the projectile hit. I fell, a lot of blood, my son pulled my belt to stop the bleeding. Went to the traumatology, I lay there for 3 hours. There were a lot of people, wounded, burned. The wife arrived. We asked for an ambulance to Donetsk, but said that they would not give anything, because two ambulances are driving around the city.

The doctor looked and said that amputation and we have to wait because at first they performed operations on those who had damage to internal organs. Made an analgesic. Then we found the car ourselves, left at 3 o’clock, and at 7 pm we were in Donetsk. I had everything is broken, my knees, arteries, my leg just felt. Arrived in Donetsk, they also did not want to take, said: «You bring a corpse». Then amputated, I was lying in intensive care. When I woke up, my leg hurts, my arm hurts, it also hit my back”.

Significant problems with getting a disability

According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, during the conflict in Donbas from April 14, 2014, to February 15, 2020, from 7 to 9 thousand civilians were injured. Most of those who have a disability as a result of their injuries live in areas where hostilities have taken place and are still taking place, or in buffer zones. And today one of the constant and stable sources of their income is social security from the state.

As part of the project “Promoting the Human Dimension of Security in Ukraine” with the support of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, a study was conducted. One of its points was the issue of access to the right to social protection for civilians who were injured in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Let’s start with the medical and social expert commissions (MSEC) – a state body that decides whether to give a person a disability. However, they often prioritize the protection of the state budget over the rights and interests of persons with disabilities.

In particular, some respondents pointed to MSEC’s widespread practice of underestimating the disability group, which means less social assistance. First of all, it concerns the increase in pensions and benefits paid to them. This is especially true when it comes to defining the second or third disability group. Because the first group of disabilities is established in very serious health disorders and is usually beyond doubt.

One of the methods widely used in MSEC is the proposal to establish a lower group indefinitely or a higher group, but for a certain period. In this case, it is giving a minimum period for re-examination, which, according to law, is from one to three years.

Of particular doubt are the cases when a person has lasting consequences of injuries, which today in Ukraine is not possible to operate. And abroad, operations are performed only in a few places in the world, and they are financially inaccessible to both people with disabilities and the state budget.

It is worth noting that for many the need for re-examinations, as well as communication with government officials, is difficult both physically and psychologically. From the situation where an alternative is offered: to get a lower group for life and not to undergo more examinations, or to get a higher group, but to become a regular and frequent visitor to MSEC, many people choose a less burdensome option. Agreeing thus to a smaller amount of social assistance. This practice, in our opinion, is ethically questionable and contradicts the recommendations of international bodies.

How to fix the situation?

In our view, a balance could be struck between protecting the state budget and protecting the rights and interests of people with disabilities if MSEC paid more attention to the social aspects of disability. Unfortunately, MSEC now prefers medical research and diagnosis. And social factors are taken into account to a minimum. This means that there may be situations where people with more or less the same medical characteristics could receive a different disability group, taking into account their individual social situation.


Medical and social expert commissions of regional and district levels are recommended to:

  • ending the practice of underestimating the disability group;
  • a more thorough study of the social situation of persons with disabilities and a fuller inclusion of the social component of disability in individual rehabilitation programs for persons with disabilities;
  • a more thorough study of the psychological state of persons with disabilities, if necessary, the mandatory inclusion of this aspect in individual rehabilitation programs;
  • conducting educational activities for specialists in social adaptation, psychological assistance, physical rehabilitation of persons with disabilities in order to more fully include these aspects in individual rehabilitation programs.

Lenur Kerymov, Natalia Alyabieva, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Warsaw, Poland

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