In Ukrainian Village, Battle Has Started

Only 5 residents remain in homes 2 miles from Russian forces
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 16, 2021 5:05 PM CST
Ukrainian Villagers 'Wait for Death'
Kateryna Shklyar, right, speaks to reporters as her husband, Dmytro, left, and Halyna Moroka gather at her house in Nevelske in eastern Ukraine.   (AP Photo/Andriy Dubchak)

(Newser) – Liudmyla Momot wipes away tears as she searches for clothes and household items to salvage from the ruins of her home that was shelled by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Her village of Nevelske, northwest of the rebel-held city of Donetsk, is only about 2 miles from the line of contact between the separatists and the Ukrainian military and has been emptied of all but five people. Small arms fire frequently is heard in the daytime, the AP reports, giving way to the booms of light artillery and mortar shelling after dusk. Rebels targeted Nevelske with shelling twice in the past month, damaging or destroying 16 of the village's 50 houses and rattling the handful of nervous residents who remain.

With the bloody conflict now more than seven years old, there are fears in Ukraine and the West that a buildup of armed forces on Russia's side of the border could lead to an invasion or the resumption of full-scale hostilities. "The worse Ukraine-Russia relations are, the more we simple people are suffering," said 68-year-old Momot, who has worked at a dairy farm all her life. After the shell hit her house, Momot fled to a nearby settlement where her son lives. But the anxiety has followed her there. "We fear that a big war will start. People are scared and packed up their bags," said Momot, who collected blankets, warm clothes and other items in the debris.

When the conflict began, Nevelske had a population of 286. Now, the five older people who remain in the ruined village collect rainwater for drinking and cooking. Between shipments of humanitarian aid, they rely on eating stale bread. "We have grown accustomed to the shelling," said 84-year-old Halyna Moroka, who has stayed in Nevelske with her disabled son. Humanitarian groups provide basic supplies to Nevelske and other villages and even try to offer housing in safer areas, but their resources are limited. "I just survive each day, trying to make it to the evening, and my soul aches,” said Moroka, who has lost vision in one eye but can't get medical help. "We are frightened,” she added. “It's really scary to sit here and wait for death. It's horrible!"

(Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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