'We're Not Living, We're Existing': On The Front Line In Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine -- The Kremlin has warned the White House not to implement a plan to supply weapons to Ukraine, or accept "negative consequences".


Onions and emptiness in Avdiivka.

With relations between the United States and Russia at their lowest ebb in years, fears of an escalation of violence in the long-running civil war in the east of Ukraine have rekindled.

The US State Department confirmed in December that America will sell 210 Javelin anti-tank rockets and 37 launchers to Ukraine.

It is thought the delivery could be imminent.

The Ukrainian military failed to stop the annexation of Crimea by Russia and has struggled to hold land in the Donbass region of the country, where Russian-backed separatists have proclaimed a republic with its capital in the city of Donetsk.

Between the front lines, the freezing cold farmlands and industrial centres of the east are gloomy and largely deserted.

The main highways are virtually devoid of traffic.

The Ukranian military checkpoints are a stark reminder that this is a country at war.

Drivers who venture through the lines from the east are routinely stopped and questioned at length and their cars thoroughly searched.

The thud and crumple of mortars and artillery are a constant. 

The town of Avdiivka is the front line.

Home to heavy industry, it would always have been a pretty miserable place at this time of year, but now, with half its population gone having fled the fighting, it is seriously depressing.

Apartment blocks on the eastern side of Avdiivka have been smashed by rockets and artillery.

Most of the windows are gone, the roofs destroyed, and whole flats exposed to the elements where the walls have collapsed.

Yet people are still living in the near-ruins.

I spoke to a number of the apartment dwellers.

They have no choice but to stay.

Most have managed to get the youngest members of their families away, leaving the old or the unwilling to remain.

"We are not living, we are existing," Svetlana Malviska told me, pointing to her third-floor apartment where makeshift curtains billow through the cracks of the building's facade.

"My daughter and her children have gone. It is very scary when the rockets come, it is usually at night. But mainly it is just miserable. I hope I live to see the end of the war," she said.

Widowed pensioner Olga, who did not want her family name reported, invited me into her flat.

There is no lighting in the stairwell, and daylight streams down the broken lift shaft.

There is a hole in the roof from a direct hit.

Olga had gone to visit friends the night it happened.

A neighbour died.

The internal walls of her flat are pockmarked with shrapnel; she would have died too, had she been at home.

From her kitchen, the damage to the homes of neighbours is a constant reminder of the war she is living through.

"That is my view, every day. It is very sad."

Her windows, destroyed by the shelling, have been blocked in with wood and lined with polystyrene to add some warmth.

I asked what she prays for.

"Peace, peace, peace," she replied.

Alexander Postovit has worked with me since the start of hostilities.

He crossed from Donbass to meet me.

A translator before the war, Alexander told me years ago that the Russian-backed rebellion was nothing and would all blow over.

He admits he was ridiculously wrong.

"Now we are divided, in my own country," he said.

"My mother lives 15 minutes from us - well, she used to. Now, because of the divide, it takes me eight hours to get to her house, unless I bribe someone. Then it takes seven!

"This is a disaster."

Source: sky news

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