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Putin’s forces are now threatening Ukrainians from within their country

ZOLOTE, UKRAINE — Every building in Zolote-3’s rookie compound near the front lines in Eastern Ukraine is marked by war. Many houses had broken windows and bullet holes in the walls; others were completely destroyed after 8 years of Russian shelling.

The school – with only seven students left – attached wooden planks to the bottom of the windows to protect the children from the shards of war.

“We are afraid – when we are at home, if we have to go to work and if we go shopping. We are always afraid. They can attack us at any time,” said teacher Sveta, 46. “But I couldn’t leave, I didn’t know where to go. I just want this war to end.”

But the war will not end any time soon. It has only just begun.

Russian troops and military vehicles flooded into Ukraine on Monday night as President Vladimir Putin gave a lengthy speech about Moscow’s control of Ukraine, a country he sees as part of a larger Russian empire.

Putin’s army now stretches into areas of eastern Ukraine already under the control of pro-Kremlin rebels, who seized power in the Donbas regions at the height of the last invasion. finally, starting in 2014.

The monumental speech Putin gave from the Kremlin on Monday stoked fears that his ambitions don’t end there.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said: “The Kremlin has taken another step towards restoring the Soviet Union.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has seemingly spent most of the past weeks downplaying Western expectations of an impending invasion, has responded to the arrival of Russian troops in his country. by calling an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. He spoke with President Joe Biden by phone, and even before Russia’s latest escalation, he told leaders including Vice President Kamala Harris that they needed to take concrete action before a meeting. full-blown aggression, demanded a change “away from the policy of appeasement” in a speech at the Munich security conference on Saturday.

The United States, the European Union and Britain will announce new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday in response to Putin’s decision to formally recognize the independence of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which are under the control of Russia. controlled by supporters of the Kremlin but on sovereign Ukraine .

There has been a fierce debate about whether to launch a full package of sanctions now or wait and see if a full invasion of Ukraine will follow later. By then, some thought it might be too late.

On the ground in Eastern Ukraine, people continue to wait as the movement of these great tectonic plates is broadcast on their television.

“Of course, I heard about Putin’s speech but I didn’t know what to think. Ukrainian experts say he will strike, the Americans say something and the Russians say something. I don’t know what to think. I really don’t. It’s a political war, not a war between people here,” Andriy, 38, who works in a mine in Toretsk near the front lines, told The Daily Beast.

“I will not evacuate if Russia invades. I didn’t do that in 2014. I was scared then, as I am now, but I’m not going to evacuate. I will keep working, scared of course, but keep working.”

Fears have grown since last weekend, when locals described the shelling as becoming more intense.

It has become familiar after seven years of sporadic artillery and ceasefire violations, including machine gun and mortar attacks, but you can never really get used to the ferocious assault. bouncing. The sound bounces off buildings and the landscape, making it difficult to locate. It reflects. Each bullet comes by surprise and your body shakes slightly and you feel the pressure or shock waves from the explosion — even from afar. As it gets closer, your brain starts to panic somehow, to wonder where it happened next.

In Zolote-3, the population used to be over a thousand, but the relentless pressure of a giant hostile neighbor has reduced the population to just a few hundred, mostly pensioners. At the school entrance, a drawing warns children not to pick up anything suspicious and to stay away from dangerous places.

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“Call 101,” says a drawing outside the school, teaching children to call authorities if they see something that looks like an unexploded bomb.

Emil Filtenborg / The Daily Beast

The OSCE reported 1,500 ceasefire violations on Saturday alone, raising concerns among teachers. “The situation right now is terrible. There have been a lot of shootings in the last three days,” Mr. Sveta said over the weekend. “I can’t even go to work. Children just sit at home. We can’t let them out.”

The Daily Beast was stopped in the city by 60-year-old Larysa, who was standing on her balcony in an apartment complex, which she said was almost deserted.

“We have shootings every hour. The shooting and the shooting. I can hear it all the time,” she said, “We don’t need that here. We want peace. We want everything to be normal.”

Her neighbors had already left, mainly to the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, Larysa explained. Her children and grandchildren are also gone, and she feels abandoned.

“We want peace, we want peace, we want peace,” she said.

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Larysa has faith in the President of Ukraine to bring peace, but she fears all-out war will break out.

Emil Filtenborg / The Daily Beast

The Zolote-3 neighborhood is part of a larger area called Zolote, which is divided into five sections. Zolote-5 was under the control of Russian-backed separatists and Zolote-4 was split on the front lines. At Zolote-1 and Zolote-2, a few miles from the front lines, locals also complained about the increasing number of ceasefire violations.

They could hear regular mortar attacks and sense waves from explosions. Like Zolote-3, they also suffered from war and economic depression. People in these parts of Zolote depend on local coal mines for work.

Pavel, 52, who doesn’t want to give his last name, recently took a break from working in the mines. He fears that it will soon close and leave people without work.

Pavel, who served in the Soviet Army in his younger years, says: “Before the war, we lived in peace and quiet and said he did not have a negative view of Russia,” Back then, we We were one country, one people, and now we are divided and we are just ruins.”

He says what he’s going through now is “brother against brother” and that there is nothing worse than that. Such a fight is “scary”, he said.

The Russian army is currently stationed just a few miles from his home. A British Cabinet minister on Tuesday warned: “The invasion of Ukraine has begun.”

Zelensky said Kyiv would not accept Russia’s de facto land grab in the Donbas. “We are on our land, we are not afraid of anything and anyone, we do not owe anyone and we will not give anything away,” he said in a statement. on television on Tuesday morning.

The president added that Ukraine’s international borders will “remain the same” regardless of Russia’s “claims and threats”.

Nina Vasilievna, 72, said the latest mortar attack on Zolote was so close to her that her balcony trembled. However, she said she was not afraid.

“I didn’t panic at all. My hope is in the Lord. He provides calm. Of course, those without God are in a state of panic. In fear. But my hope is in God. Without God, I would also panic,” she told The Daily Beast.

“Children in Russia are also panicking. My daughter and my niece said, ‘Come on mom. We’re going away’, but I’ve been here for eight years. Even if Russia takes the city [in 2014]. I will stay here,” she said.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/putins-forces-are-now-menacing-ukrainians-from-inside-their-country?source=articles&via=rss Putin’s forces are now threatening Ukrainians from within their country

Russell Falcon

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