SEVERODONETSK, Ukraine – For days, Viktoria Gudyatskaya listened anxiously as fighting escalated along the front lines in eastern Ukraine toward her home in the town of Novoaidar. The shelling broke out so violently that on Tuesday, Gudyatskaya decided to take her teenage daughter and flee.
“We can hear it now through our closed windows,” she said from the platform at the ramshackle station in Severodonetsk, near her hometown, as she and her daughter prepared to board the train. Head west early in the morning to Kyiv.
For nearly a decade, violence has ruled the lives of people in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have cut two sieges and waged a steady skirmish with Ukrainian troops. on the other side of the battlefield. But The decision is announced Russia’s President Vladimir Putin of Russia on Monday night recognized the two breakaway regions as independent republics – and ordered the Russian military as “peacemakers” – to unexpectedly brings new and urgent danger to an already struggling region.
The European Union’s foreign policy director, Josep Borrell, said on Tuesday that Russian troops have entered the breakaway region.
On Tuesday morning, shelling between the separatists and Ukraine continued at various locations along the line of communication, as uncertainty over what the Russians would do forced the remaining civilians to remain. must decide to stay or go.
When dawn broke out on the Severodonetsk train station, about a dozen people stood on the concrete platform to board the train going west. It was not a scene of panic, but a grueling resignation. Mothers stuffed clothes in plastic trash bags or pulled dirty roller bags. They say they are leaving to escape possible violence.
For Ms. Gudyatskaya, who had planned to leave, Mr. Putin’s angry speech sped up her schedule. She doesn’t want to wait to find out how the Russian president is likely to spark new fury.
“It seems he has taken a decisive step, as she stands with her daughter, Svetlana, 14, planning to live with an older brother in Kyiv” until the situation clears up, Mr. Gudyatskaya said. ”
President Volodymyr Zelensky gave a televised address at 2am calling for calm, saying the country would “keep a cool head” during the crisis. But he also said that Ukraine would not make territorial concessions. “We are on our own land,” he said. “We are not afraid of anything or anyone. We owe no one and will give to no one.”
Hours later, Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksiy Reznkiov, warned of “difficult challenges ahead” in a speech to military officials on Tuesday morning. “There will be holes,” he said. “We will have to endure pain, overcome fear and despair. But we will definitely win.”
From Moscow, Mr. Putin asserted in his speech that Ukraine was “created by Russia” and should today be part of it, proposing a claim to the entire country. Still, he was vague about a key question as to whether his order to deploy forces into breakaway regions could launch a broader assault on Ukraine. Two lands, the so-called People’s Republic of Donetsk and People’s Republic of Luhanskclaims three times as much territory as they currently control.
If Russia backs those claims, extending deep into Ukrainian territory, including on the chipped concrete train platform that the families departed from on Tuesday, the Ukrainian government will be forced to accept or oppose it. face a possible war with Russia.
The territory claimed by the two entities outside the area they control is now home to about 2.5 million people. An internal influx of displaced people to the west is another possibility, although there was no immediate sign of a large-scale migration on Tuesday morning.
But the growing violence is taking its toll. On Monday, just hours before Putin spoke from Moscow, dozens of mortars exploded in the village of Vrubivka, as terrified residents cowered in basements, capturing their horror on video. .
Iryna Yarmolenko, 53, said: “It was the fourth or fifth time coming. “Oh, dear mother, what should I do? It is coming. Lots of things are coming. “
With a shrill whistle, an explosion and the sound of broken glass, a mortar then fell near her building. Ms. Yarmolenko, who was not harmed, shared the recording with the Times reporter.
Outside, the poplars along a nearby street had died down, a spectacle of mutilated branches, craters, and broken glass.
“What to describe? Shootings, explosions, plaster falling from the ceiling, the smell of gunpowder,” said Kristina Makarenko, 24, who was also waiting in the basement with her sons Timur, 7, and Anton 2. “How would I know. Why is that. going on. They have cockroaches in their heads. They are idiots on both sides, here and there.”
In the damp, filthy floor, illuminated by a ceiling light, the boys play video games on their phones. “The ceiling fell and we ran to the basement,” Timur said of how his Monday started. “We ran and ran.”
For Ms. Gudyatskaya, standing on the platform on Tuesday, there was no question about where she would run with her daughter – go, west. She directly blamed Mr. Putin for her predicament. “If they had another leader, they wouldn’t do this,” she said of the Russians. “The Russian people are fine.”
Her daughter Svetlana, who wears a backpack with rainbow straps and says she wants to be an auto mechanic or a nurse, says she’s not as nervous as her mother.
“Everything is fine,” she said as she boarded the train. “Our boys will win. We will defeat Russia and Russia will fall.”
Victoria shook her head. “Trust is always good, Sveta,” she said. “But I’m worried.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/22/world/europe/ukraine-breakaway-regions-conflict-russia.html Ukraine long encircled in conflict faces new dangers