Ceasefire is a myth in Donetsk | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 18.09.2014
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Ceasefire is a myth in Donetsk

The Evdokimova family spent over two months away from their home in Donetsk to escape the fighting. When they headed back to the city with their five children, they quickly found that life was far from peaceful.

As Valentina Evdokimova sits in her front yard, there is a steady sound of nearby shelling. "Right now we're sitting here and hearing explosions from everywhere. We expected everything to be calm. That's why we brought the kids back," she says. "We came back a week ago. And all this week there's been bombing and shelling. So there is no ceasefire."

Just short distance away local store owners sift through the debris of a scorched market place. Six people were killed here on Monday when mortar fire struck and set fire to stalls. The attack appeared to be indiscriminate - this residential neighborhood was caught in the crossfire of an intense ongoing battle for control of Donetsk airport. On Wednesday morning it was hit again.

dog on market square Copyright: Kitty Logan

A dog's life in Donetsk

An apartment block was shelled too and now its walls are charred and windows shattered. A young woman emerges from the building, clutching two bags. As she walks toward the bus stop, loud thumps of artillery fire resume. But she does not flinch. "It's like music," she says, as she continues to calmly wait for the bus.

Fighting flares up

But not everyone here is quite as relaxed. Some families prefer to sleep in the basement of a nearby school to escape the shelling. There are no classes here these days. The building was hit more than once and the head teachers explains that parents are now afraid to send their children here. Instead an arrow on the pavement outside the school entrance points to the emergency underground shelter. It is dark, dank and uncomfortable. Students now spend their nights here, instead of days upstairs in the classrooms.

The fighting is not limited to the area around Donetsk airport. In the district of Petrovskyi, south-west of the city, heavy fire started up mid-afternoon on Wednesday. At the local rebel headquarters, heavily armed troops pouring over maps shrug off the latest skirmish, which they claim comes from a Ukrainian military position around 15 kilometers away. It was normal, they said. There was no ceasefire.

But yet again civilians here are paying the price for these indiscriminate and unpredictable battles. At least another two people were killed in Donetsk on Wednesday. Valentina Evdokimova worries about what could happen to her family. "Thank God our house hasn't been destroyed yet," she says, "but I don't know what's going to happen in the next five minutes. Right now we hear constant shelling. The children are traumatized. They are afraid of every sound."

man and woman on bench Copyright: Kitty Logan

Reflecting on an uncertain future

Uncertain future

She says that despite their fears, the family cannot afford to move away again. With pensions and salaries unpaid, many people here are facing financial problems. And even with money in hand, there are only a limited number of shops and businesses open. Valentina says the one time she ventured out to buy winter clothes for the children, she found all the shops closed. So like many people here, they try to carry on as best they can.

But every day they face real risks, as the fighting increasingly moves into residential areas and shows no sign of letting up, despite the ceasefire agreement. The feeling here is that the rebels will press on to try to take the rest of the Donbas region. But as that is something Kyiv is unlikely to tolerate, further clashes seem inevitable.

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