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Ukrainian Military Employs Handcrafte...
Donetsk
By Andrey Samerkhanov
30 Mar 2015

Ukrainian forces build custom armored personnel carriers for use on the frontlines of the ongoing conflict.

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Ukraine Front Lines: No Ceasefire, Mi...
Tonen'ke, Ukraine
By Andrey Samerkhanov
30 Mar 2015

Footage and interviews from Ukraine front lines.

Despite a ceasefire brokered in Minsk between Russia and Ukraine and the pulling back of heavy artillery on both sides, warfare doesn't stop in eastern Ukraine. Russian proxies and regular army continue shelling at Ukrainian forces' positions on daily basis. In the meantime, UA president Poroshenko announced UA volunteer battalions withdrawal from the front lines in eastern Ukraine. Soldiers of the regular UA army fear this decision will turn to many death among UA soldiers that remain to serve there: "The enemy is strong and UA must ensure even stronger defense instead of withdrawal". The following three stories aim to highlight:
1) Who is really supports UA army;
2) What challenges UA soldiers face on the front lines;
3) Why UA soldiers think UA president Poroshenko's decision on "withdrawal" from the front lines is wrong

We have heard and read a lot about volunteers providing food, medical supplies, and other essentials for the Ukrainian soldiers at the front. At the same time the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and government officials have claimed that the government is doing its job in supplying the soldiers with everything they need. EMPR has decided to see for ourselves how things stand in regard to how well the soldiers in the battle zone in eastern Ukraine are being taken care of. In our search for the truth and to bring our readers a firsthand account our correspondent spent two days with a volunteer group in the Donetsk oblast. We want to share with our readers the remarkable, unique system the volunteers have worked out to provide aid to the patriots of Ukraine who with their strength of spirit, desire for justice and often with their own lives are defending our land from the Russian invaders.
Meet the charitable organization "Mother's Watch" in Kyiv. Here volunteers collect aid for the Ukrainian soldiers. Here protective camouflage nets are made, bread and cakes and meat pies are baked, stuffed dumplings and meat balls are cooked, and soup and borshch ingredients are dehydrated. This is where our journey accompanying the volunteers from the "Association of Ukrainian Veterans of Afghanistan" begins. The group of veterans delivers the goods to the soldiers at the front.
We leave Kyiv at night and by morning we arrive in Donetsk oblast. Our first stop is a small village where 11 divisions of a mechanized infantry battalion are based. Here we leave half of the goods. The battalion has been here for three months already. They are tired. And waiting for their rotation to end. Next we're off to the see the "Right Sector."

Story #1
Music is in the air as volunteers from the organization "Mother's Watch" weave camouflage nets for the soldiers and sing their hearts out. Soon the vans arrive. Food, water, and other essentials are loaded into the vans. By the next morning the vans are at the front. They are unloaded and the goods are distributed among the soldiers. The soldiers tell us that if the volunteers did not bring them the supplies they need the army would not be able to keep going for more than two weeks.

Story #2
The soldiers of the Ukrainian Army share with the volunteers all the ceasefire violations the opponent has committed, the problems within the army, and their thoughts on how and by whom Ukraine could be helped in the war against Russian aggression.

Story #3
In February, 2015, Andrei Hrachev, a combat doctor with the 93 Battalion together with other soldiers addressed an appeal to the President of Ukraine in which they called on the president to bring order to the country, to get rid of corruption, and to fulfill the pre-election promises. The appeal was full of obscene language but it hit record highs in popularity. Andrei Hrachev became an Internet star. In March, 2015 Petro Poroshenko issued an order that the volunteer battalions Right Sector and OUN must either become a part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine or leave the battle zone. Here is Andrei Hrachev's response to the President's order.

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Ukraine: The Wait 03
Paviopil, Donetsk Oblast
By Benas Gerdziunas
19 Mar 2015

Pavlopil and its 200 remaining inhabitants are stuck between Ukrainian and separatists frontlines. Devoid of jobs, schools or local amenities, the villagers attempt to co-exist. Days are spent farming and sitting in the front yards; it takes too long, and costs too much to get into neighbouring city of Mariupol.

“We share what we have – yes, you could say it’s real communism,” says one of those remaining.

Some families, however, did not have even the smallest luxury of a roof over their heads – their homes were destroyed in subsequent artillery duels.

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Ukraine: The Wait 18
Mariupol, Ukraine
By Benas Gerdziunas
17 Mar 2015

The separatists’ diversionary raid on a railway bridge leaves passenger trains stranded in Mariupol. After many months of idleness, the bridge was finally repaired.

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Ukraine: The Wait 05
Mariupol, Ukraine
By Benas Gerdziunas
16 Mar 2015

The strategic southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol continues to rely on its heavy-industries, even as shells randomly hit its eastern outskirts, or the near-constant fighting in Shyrokino - a village 30 kilometers east of Mariupol. Even as analysts and military intelligence predict a weekly separatist assault, it hasn’t happened in a year; the steel mills roll on.

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Ukraine: The Wait 10
Mariupol, Ukraine
By Benas Gerdziunas
14 Mar 2015

‘Psych’, a young volunteer fighter with one of Ukraine’s makeshift battalions ‘St. Mary’. After being reformed from the Shakhtorsk Battalion, the newly established battalion’s leaders are adopting a Christian Crusader façade.

“I’m an atheist,” he says, trying to conceal a pre-adolescent face under khaki balaclava.

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Ukraine: The Wait 20
Slovyansk, Donetsk Oblast
By Benas Gerdziunas
10 Mar 2015

The psychiatric hospital in Semyonovka, Donetsk Region, saw heavy fighting at the start of the War in Donbass. Both sides accuse the other for its destruction and using civilians trapped in the crossfire as cover. According to Human Rights Watch, patients and staff were evacuated on May 26, 2014 “to other facilities in Zhdanovka, Gorlovka, and Donetsk.”

All of these territories are now under control of the Pro-Russian separatists. A man from Semyonovka- who preferred to remain anonymous, said as he scourged through the remains of his home: “Last time I heard, they were taken to Russia after the evacuation.”

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Ukraine: The Wait 04
Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast
By Benas Gerdziunas
09 Mar 2015

Two of Tanya’s seven children huddle by a television in Kramatorsk refugee centre. Having escaped war in the neighbouring city of Gorlovka - currently under separatist control, the family breathes easily. Boredom prevails, as the children – along with the teenagers, move from one screen to another, trying to entertain themselves.

“My husband will join us here soon,” says the mother Tanya, “everything is perfect.” Meanwhile, her eldest daughter stares at the flickering screen in front.

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Americans Fight Alongside pro-Russian...
Donetsk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
22 Feb 2015

Two Americans from texas have been fighting for the pro-Russian rebels at the Donetsk Airport, where some of the worst fighting in eastern Ukraine have occurred. 

"Texas" is a communist, who came to Donetsk from Texas to help the Donbass militia fight off the Kiev government. He is a veteran of the US Army, where he was a combat engineer and now serves as an explosive expert with the Sud Vremini (Essence of Time) Battalion. "Jackhammer" was born in Moscow, but grew up in Texas. He has no military background, but once had contracts with the police force before coming to Donetsk. He subscribes to no political party or ideology, and says he would leave Donbass if the Kiev-backed military stopped fighting in the civilian centers. He wants a peaceful resolution between the Novorussiya government, and the Kiev government, and says that even if Novorussiya does not separate, and chooses to remain a part of Ukraine, he will leave Donbass.

Grad rockets can be heard in the background of the interviews.

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Americans Fight Alongside pro-Russian...
Donetsk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
22 Feb 2015

"Texas" is a communist, who came to Donetsk from Texas to help the Donbass militia fight off the Kiev government. He is a veteran of the US Army, where he was a combat engineer and now serves as an explosive expert with the Sud Vremini (Essence of Time) Battalion.

Grad rockets can be heard in the background of the interview.

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Americans Fight Alongside pro-Russian...
Donetsk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
21 Feb 2015

"Jackhammer" was born in Moscow, but grew up in Texas. He has no military background, but once had contracts with the police force before coming to Donetsk. He subscribes to no political party or ideology, and says he would leave Donbass if the Kiev-backed military stopped fighting in the civilian centers. He wants a peaceful resolution between the Novorussiya government, and the Kiev government, and says that even if Novorussiya does not separate, and chooses to remain a part of Ukraine, he will leave Donbass.

Grad rockets can be heard in the background of the interview.

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Salt mine on Ukrainian Frontline Rema...
Artemivsk, Ukraine
By Chris Collison
18 Feb 2015

As the bloody military conflict in eastern Ukraine drags on, work at the country’s largest salt mine continues, even though it operates just a few kilometers from heavy fighting between Russian-backed insurgents and Ukrainian forces.

Artemsol, in the town of Soledar in the Donetsk region, employs more than 3,000 local residents. It is the lifeblood of a community that has found itself on the front lines of the violent conflict.

Workers in the mine say they cannot leave because they need their jobs to survive.

The salt mine is facing financial setbacks after Russia blocked imports of its food-grade salt amid the conflict between the two former Soviet republics. Russia’s consumer watchdog has blocked imports of some Ukrainian food products for what it says are safety concerns. Ukraine and foreign observers say Russia is targeting certain industries to punish the Ukrainian economy.

The mine’s general director, Denys Fomenko, says the government-run company is looking for more clients in Europe, but ultimately he hopes Russia will reopen its borders to Artemsol.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has forced many of the Donetsk region’s industries - mostly coal mines - to shut down. But Artemsol has managed to keep running.

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Ukraine Conflict: Kramatorsk Shelling
Kramatorsk, Ukraine
By Maria Zaviialova
10 Feb 2015

An ATO forward operating post was shelled near the town of Kramatorsk, causing casualties and damage to vehicles and roads.

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Civilians Killed in Kramatorsk Shelling
Kramatorsk, Ukraine
By Maria Zaviialova
10 Feb 2015

Kramatorsk was the scene of heavy shelling and rocket attacks, according to Ukrainian President Poroshenko from pro-Russian rebels, on February 10. The shelling killed twelve civilians and wounded more than 30.

Just days ahead of peace talks scheduled to take place in Minsk, pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces saw another round of heavy clashes. Both sides claim to have made gains during the battles.

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Ukraine Refugees 21
Donetsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
08 Feb 2015

Actors walk the hallways of the Donetsk Opera during their
performance.

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Ukraine Refugees 22
Donetsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
08 Feb 2015

Actors perform at the Donetsk Opera, as fighting continues on the outskirts of the city.

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Ukraine Fighting Displaces Thousands
Debaltsevo, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
07 Feb 2015

Heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine has killed civilians on both sides, while an attempt to reopen peace talks has stalled. The past week has seen by far the worst fighting in Ukraine since the ceasefire was signed five months ago, exacerbating the refugee situation in the country. This comes as rebel forces announced an offensive that Kiev says amounts to a full repudiation of the truce. 

Fighting in the towns of Uglegorsk and Debaltsevo left tens of Ukrainian soldiers and rebel soldiers dead, while civilians from the area fled to a suburb just thirty kilometers from the frontline in Svetlogorsk. Meanwhile in Donetsk, recently the scene of fierce clashes between Ukrainian forces and rebel units, some residents attend a show at the Donetsk Opera while others stay in the safety of makeshift bomb shelters.

So far, fighting in East Ukraine has left 921,640 internally displaced, including 136,216 children, according to a UN report from January 21. Over 600,000 have left the country, 400,000 of whom have fled to Russia.

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Ukraine Refugees 12
Uglegorsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
07 Feb 2015

Rebel soldiers prepare to take up their positions outside Uglegorsk.

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Ukraine Refugees 13
Uglegorsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
07 Feb 2015

Rebels receive orders from their commander at a check point in Uglegorsk.

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Ukraine Refugees 14
Uglegorsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
07 Feb 2015

A rebel soldier covers his face from the cold at the checkpoint in Uglegorsk, recently taken by rebels.

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Ukraine Refugees 16
Uglegorsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
07 Feb 2015

Locals walk the streets of Uglegorsk, recently taken by rebels in their push for territory in Ukraine's Donbass region.

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Ukraine Refugees 01
Uglegorsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
07 Feb 2015

Destroyed tanks and armored vehicles line the main road in Uglegorsk.

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Ukraine Refugees 03
Uglegorsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
07 Feb 2015

Elderly women walk by a destroyed house in Uglegorsk, a small city that was taken by rebels in their push to gain territory in Ukraine's Donbass region.

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Ukraine Refugees 11
Uglegorsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
07 Feb 2015

A local man talks with rebel technicians as they try to fix a destroyed Ukrainian armored personnel carrier in Uglegorsk.

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Ukraine Refugees 19
Donetsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
06 Feb 2015

A woman in Donetsk reviews the damage to her house after weeks of fighting rocked the city.

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Ukraine Refugees 08
Uglegorsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
06 Feb 2015

People stay in a bomb shelter in Donetsk that was designed during the Cold War. Some local residents have lived in bomb shelters for more than a month, looking for cover from artillery strikes.

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Ukraine Refugees 09
Donetsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
06 Feb 2015

People stay in a bomb shelter in Donetsk that was designed during the Cold War. Some local residents have lived in bomb shelters for more than a month, looking for cover from artillery strikes.

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Ukraine Refugees 10
Donetsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
06 Feb 2015

People stay in a bomb shelter in Donetsk that was designed during the Cold War. Some local residents have lived in bomb shelters for more than a month, looking for cover from artillery strikes.

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Ukraine Refugees 23
Donetsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
05 Feb 2015

A man fixes windows in his apartment that were shattered by a nearby explosion.

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Ukraine Refugees 24
Donetsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
05 Feb 2015

Windows at a school for hairdressers in Donetsk are blocked with mattresses.

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Inside Ukraine's 'Pravy Sektor'
Donetsk, Ukraine
By KatArgo
03 Feb 2015

Near Donetsk, Ukrainian fighters make their home among the wreckage of an old, abandoned home. Now the residential neighborhood had been reduced to frames of brick and rubble, pock marked by the impact of shrapnel. A child’s purple bike, an full-length brass mirror and a green-and-red sled are just some of the abandoned reminders of a life that existed here before the war came to their doorstep.

After a Grad rocket landed nearby, I took shelter in one of these abandoned mansions where the soldiers of the Pravy Sektor have made a home inside the basements. The Pravy Sektor, or the Right Sektor, is largely seen as an ultra-right wing nationalist organization, also having, some say, collaborated with the Nazi regime against the Soviets in WWII.

For security reasons, they requested that their names and identities be kept secret. “It is too dangerous to live on the first, second or third floors,” said a Crimean soldier in his 40’s, “We used to live across the street but that house is now destroyed. You can hear the grads landing all night.”

They have made a comfortable home, with improvised stoves whose pipes cut into the windows and are sealed air tight with silver electrical tape. An old, gas-powered stove sits in one corner, and they manually need to crank open a tank of gas in order to use it.

Along the wall are the flags of Ukraine, Pravy Sektor and the letters of support from young children. Because it is too dangerous to go outside to smoke, many of them huddle around a small garden table that was brought indoors and tap their ash into empty tin cans and ignore the chorus of artillery fire that is just outside.

When I asked if they were Nazis or Nazi sympathizers, a soldier from Crimea who had previously been a member of the Aidar battalion, laughed and screamed “Hitler kaput! Like Putin kaput!”
Many, it seems were apolitical, and their only uniting conviction was the need to stop Russia from turning the whole of Ukraine into Crimea.

A soldier in his fifties had once served in the Soviet Army. He was a painter, doing metalwork for a museum in Crimea. He studies and practices Zen Buddhism, dreams of being in a monastery in Thailand after the war is over, and says that though he is generally a pacifist, the events and the current state of Crimea convinced him that there was a need to fight.

“It is horrible in Crimea now,” he says, “The friends I left behind there tell me they are horrified.”
I asked them if they truly hated Russians, and a young man who looked to be in his late twenties laughed, “No we do not hate Russians. It is Russian policies we are against. I was born in Russian. I am Russian. There are others like me here.”

After I asked them my questions, one of their young team leaders in his late twenties looked at me and asked me, as an American, why my country did not help Ukraine against the Russian “terrorists”. I had no answer.

“Men are dying in this war, and still, no one helps,” he says, exacerbated.

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Donetsk Shelled Allegedly by Pro-Russ...
Donetsk
By Andrey Samerkhanov
03 Feb 2015

Footage showing Donetsk residential districts allegedly shelled by pro-Russia rebels artillery on February 3, 2015.

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Ukraine Refugees 06
Svetlogorsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
03 Feb 2015

Refugees from Debaltsevo wait to depart in the bus that will take them to a shelter in Svetlogorsk.

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Ukraine Refugees 07
Svetlogorsk, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
03 Feb 2015

Refugees from Debaltsevo arrive at the sanatorium in Svyatogorsk that has been made into a shelter, some 30km from the frontline in Svetlogorsk.

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Ukraine Refugees 15
Debaltsevo, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
01 Feb 2015

A man walks along the deserted road outside Debaltsevo, the scene of fierce fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia rebels.

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Ukraine Refugees 17
Debaltsevo, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
01 Feb 2015

Ukrainian soldiers patrol the streets in Debaltsevo.

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Ukraine Refugees 18
Debaltsevo, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
01 Feb 2015

Locals from Debaltsevo wait to board a truck to leave town. They have been without power, water and gas for at least ten days.

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Ukraine Refugees 20
Debaltsevo, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
01 Feb 2015

People from Chernukhino, now situated on the frontline of the conflict, wait to be evacuated by bus.

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Ukraine Refugees 02
Debaltsevo, Ukraine
By Sergey Ponomarev
01 Feb 2015

People from Chernukhino, now situated on front lines of the ongoing conflict, wait for an evacuation shuttle.