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Ukraine: the population flees Kramatorsk for fear of a Russian offensive

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Hundreds of people fled the city of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine on Sunday for fear of a possible Russian offensive in this part of the country, AFP noted. They were hundreds, women, children and elderly, to take the train from the station of this city under the control of the government of kyiv.

Hundreds of people fled the city of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine on Sunday for fear of a possible Russian offensive in this part of the country, AFP noted. They were hundreds, women, children and elderly, to take the train from the station of this city under the control of the government of kyiv.

Fear of a deterioration of the situation in the Donbass

The departure was done in order, with the help of volunteers on site, but in an atmosphere of sadness, resignation and, for many, anguish. “I’m sending my children to the west (of the country) to a safer place, like everyone else,” Andrei told AFP, whose wife and two daughters were to board a train heading for Lviv (west).

“A lot of people have already left. For two or three days, our families have been leaving, we men are staying (…), the situation is bad,” he explained. Russia announced at the end of the week that it wanted to “focus its efforts on the liberation of Donbass”, a mining basin in eastern Ukraine where kyiv has since said it fears a worsening of the situation.

The Russian forces are indeed trying to take the Ukrainian army in a pincer movement, deployed since 2014 along a front line passing near Donetsk to the south and Lugansk to the east (capitals of the two pro-Russian separatist “republics”) of the same name), which has recently reached Izioum in the northwest.

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“The children are gone”

De facto regional capital, since October 2014, of the territory still under the control of kyiv, Kramatorsk is located in the center of the region and would then be surrounded by this pincer movement, raising fears of a fate similar to that of Mariupol, further south, devastated by bombing and fighting.

The situation was calm late Sunday afternoon in Kramatorsk, almost deserted as the start of the night curfew approached.

In the first days of the Russian invasion at the end of February and the beginning of March, the city had been the target of several bombardments, on the airport in particular. The past few weeks have been calm, but four bombs or missiles have targeted the outskirts overnight, according to residents.

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Around 6:00 p.m. (3:00 p.m. GMT), warning sirens sounded throughout the city, as is the case several times a day now in most major Ukrainian cities.

“The children are gone, we have to stay with my husband to take care of my mother,” said Svetlana, a 50-year-old volunteer organizing the crowd on the station platform to get her on the train.

With a suitcase, a sports bag or a few plastic bags for the children’s snacks, many of these families held in their arms or at the end of a leash their pet dogs and cats. “The last few days the station was full every day… Rumors say something terrible is coming here,” Svetlana added.

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