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Ukrainian soldiers and villagers on the frontline brace for attack with Putin's army not far away

Under sludgy grey skies they move amidst the wrecked buildings waiting for an attack they think could come at any moment.

The frontline is increasingly moody, it’s tense with expectation.

The soldiers know this conflict is shifting and they fear the might of Vladimir Putin’s army is massing not far away in the areas held by Russian backed separatists.

What will happen if Vladimir Putin chooses all-out war?

The area has been near a war zone for eight years

If President Putin decides to launch an incursion further into Ukrainian territory it will be here, villages like Pisky, that face the immediate danger.

The Kremlin is marketing the deployment of soldiers into the region as a ‘peacekeeping force’ but the commander here says that is just another deception.

“I think armed forces of the Russian Federation will continue to increase their numbers in Donetsk and Luhansk and I think the most obvious outcome is that they will invade Ukraine to occupy the areas of these entire administrative borders,” Major Pavlo Yurchuk tells me.

More on Russia

This war has been grinding on for eight brutal and unforgiving years.

Major Pavlo Yurchuk with the Ukrainian Army
Major Pavlo Yurchuk with the Ukrainian Army
A memorial to a mortar team near Donetsk
A memorial to a mortar team near Donetsk

This memorial to a Ukrainian mortar unit sits desolate in the shadow of a smashed up school.

Ukraine v Russia: How does their military might compare?

All along these front lines there are reminders that death is never far away. The ground is covered with the remnants of incoming fire.

And the abandoned buildings tell their own stories of lives changed forever by this conflict.

It’s hard to convey just how close the villages are to the front lines.

Pisky is regularly hit by artillery fire but, amazingly, people are still living here. They are the old and the infirm and they have nowhere else to go.

People like 83-year-old Stepanivna who refuses to leave.

Stepanivna does not want to leave Pisky
Stepanivna does not want to leave Pisky

“Who will have us? Where could I live? I was born here, I was baptised here, my kids are from here. Where should I go? I am not afraid of anything. If I am killed so be it, the only thing I would want is for it happen quickly,” she says.

Ukraine is a country under psychological and physical siege.

The soldiers here say the sanctions will not be enough to deter further Russian aggression. And they know they may soon have to fight to defend these positions as the Kremlin redraws the map of Eastern Europe.


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