STANTSIA LUHANSKA, Ukraine – The sound of remote shelling was heard at a crossing between Ukraine and the separatist-held Luhansk region on Saturday – Artillery fire provided another indication of the escalation of fighting and tension between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian militants.
Most people did not react, either walking to the checkpoint to enter the so-called Luhansk Republic or back from there. Oleksandr, whose sister lives in Luhansk Territory, spent a week there before returning to the Kiev-controlled side on Saturday morning. He said he had not witnessed a mass evacuation of people, as both Luhansk and Donetsk regions announced on Friday night.
But there were long queues at gas stations and crowds of people stocking supplies in stores.
“My sister is still there and my niece is still there, so how can you not worry?” said Oleksandr, who, like others, refrained from giving his surname for fear of separatist reprisals against his family. “I do not want to believe that this is the beginning of an escalation,” he added.
The Ukrainian military has reported a tenfold increase in bombing in the past three days, accusing the separatists of using weapons banned in previous agreements. A Ukrainian soldier was killed in a raid recently.
A woman who was returning from the breakaway region said the situation was “quiet and calm” and she did not hear any shelling. Another, Emma, whose parents live in the self-proclaimed republic, said they had heard the eviction announcement but had not planned to leave the area.
“But people are afraid,” she said.
The movement of those heading and returning continued, although the sounds of shelling were occasionally heard in the background. They are accustomed to the spurts of this eight-year conflict. They just hope nothing more serious looms.
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