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In Popasna, in the Donbass, the population tries to survive

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On the 81st day of the special operation as the Kremlin says, Russian forces are still trying to advance into the Donbass. Saturday morning, May 14, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry identified thirty bomb attacks in 24 hours in the Lugansk region. Our special correspondent was able to gain very rare access to this area, the most closed republic of pro-Russian Donbass, accompanied by pro-Russian forces.

With our special correspondent in Popasna, Anissa El-Jabri

The first thing you notice is the very high intensity of the battle development: Massive reinforcements by the Russian and pro-Russian army have been going on for at least several days, locals report.

On all major highways, wide roads or muddy and potholed roads in the countryside, the constant traffic continues: in a few hours one can count hundreds of vehicles, including tanks with whole groups of soldiers, truck tarps and numerous medium trucks. -Firearms. Because the Russian and pro-Russian forces mainly use artillery.

About ten kilometers as the crow flies from the front linethe deafening noise of the fight is perpetual.

In Popasna, a strategic lock taken a few days ago, there is almost nothing left. After a very long siege supported by the air force and its corollary, this city, originally with 20,000 inhabitants, on the administrative border of the Republic of Luhansk, is now a ghost townwith massive destruction.

In Popasna in Donbass, the destruction is significant.
In Popasna in Donbass, the destruction is significant. © Anissa ElJabri/RFI

Civilians try to farm their land despite fighting

While very few soldiers are seen wearing white belts – white is reserved for those working behind the lines, especially distributing humanitarian aid – soldiers operating in Popasna often have a red cloth wrapped around one leg or one arm. It’s for those on the front lines.

In Popasna, destroyed by artillery fire, a fortified city turned into a ghost town, there are a few rare civilians who hardly dare to leave the cellars: We still rarely go outside, we just walk around the patio from time to time says a 40-year-old tractor driver.

His hair already completely white, however, he ventured a little further into his garden: It’s a bit dilapidated. But hey, for me we can still plant until the end of May. Everyone does what he wants. Some do it fast, others are not in a hurry. »

In front of a church in the city of Popasna, in the Donbass, on May 14, 2022.
In front of a church in the city of Popasna, in the Donbass, on May 14, 2022. © Anissa El Jabri / RFI

A few steps away, his neighbor was withdrawing from the railway tracks and his well-kept square meters. ” This is my daughter’s garden, this is my gardenmakes the visit in a Russian mixed with Ukrainian. I get up in the morning at 4:30 am and go pull the weeds while it’s still quiet. I do this real quick and go home. There I have green sorrel, here there are potatoes, tomato plants, onions… We will be prepared for the winter, we will survive with our own vegetables and we will not buy anything. We’ll get out of this, one way or another. »

He talks about his garden and the trembling of his hands and the tears stop, for a brief moment: the disturbing image of the missile that fell on his house and that of his mother’s grave in the patio are less present.

With the inhabitants of Popasna, in the Donbass, who try to survive despite the fighting

Russian and pro-Russian forces are now fighting for their next target: Slaviansk and Kramatorsk.

Also read: In the Bezimmen camp: “I found myself here completely by chance”

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