Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Tensions In Ukraine Increase As Cease-Fire Appears To Have Dissolved

ARUN RATH, HOST:

That's the sound of shelling in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk. A week-old cease-fire in eastern Ukraine has all but broken down. Shelling that was previously restricted to the airport in Donetsk reached the city today. The separatist-controlled town is tense, with layers of checkpoints to get in and out. Nearly all stores and businesses are closed. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is there and has this report.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: If you want to feel the insecurity uncertainty coursing through Donetsk, just go to the bus station. There are hundreds of people with suitcases and overflowing shopping bags and buses lined up for destinations across Ukraine. Lida, a waif-like 25-year-old who doesn't want to give her last name because she says she is scared, is standing in a corner with her bags.

LIDA: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: I'm getting out of town because there's no job - there's nothing for me here, she says. So your reasons for leaving are more economic than political, I ask her.

LIDA: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: Both my parents were killed, she says, her eyes tearing up. Lida's parents died in the shelling between Ukrainian government forces and separatist rebels that consumed the city throughout the month of August. That shelling was supposed to stop after last week's cease-fire, but it didn't. And this weekend, the explosion rocked the edges of the city.

With the two sides fighting over the strategic airport, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. It might be a long time before Donetsk is a normal place again. Another young woman with a baby boy strapped to her chest and a young daughter standing beside her says her family fled to Russia in June. And they're back because they heard things were safer.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: We heard that things were stable now, but I don't know what my husband will do for work. We don't have anything to count on, for the moment.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: Fearful of repercussions for giving her opinion, she doesn't even want to give her first name and won't say if she supports one side or the other. I just want things to go back to the way they were before, she says.

(SOUNDBITE OF BUS STATION ANNOUNCEMENT)

BEARDSLEY: Beneath the hubbub, there's an underlying tension here. Separatist fighters dressed in camouflage cradle guns, their heads tied with do-rags. Posters on the walls call on the patriotic to sign up with the army and fight for Novorossiya, or New Russia.

(SOUNDBITE OF CONVERSATION)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: My interpreter and I are stopped numerous times by burly men demanding to see our IDs. Thank goodness we have a press accreditation stamped with the official insignia of the Donetsk People's Republic. That's the name of the independent country the pro-Russian separatists hope to carve out here. An attractive couple in their 60s is standing by a mountain of bags. It's Oksana and Sergey Volik.

SERGEY VOLIK: (Through translator) We have our daughter and grandbaby in Belarus, so we're going to join them. It's better that the family's altogether in times like these. I'm leaving a part-time job, but I'm more concerned about the family right now.

BEARDSLEY: Wife Oksana has no problems saying which side she prefers in this conflict.

OKSANA VOLIK: (Through translator) I want to live in a United Ukraine - only that. From my life experience, Ukraine is more peace-loving, has more humanistic values. It's a kinder place.

BEARDSLEY: Oksana says, unfortunately, her viewpoint is a minority in this city, where most people have supported the separatists. But the majority of people we talked to at this bus station say, they prefer to live in Ukraine.

VALENTINA FEYDAROVIC: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: 69-year-old Valentina Feydarovic says, she's headed to Kiev. She's packed her DVD player and says, she's not coming back.

FEYDAROVIC: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: I'm scared to stay here, says Feydarovic. I love Ukraine, and I want to be in that beautiful country. I don't want to live in Novorossiya. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Donetsk. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.