Russian forces are preparing a “massive attack” against Ukrainian troops in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, Governor Sergii Gaiday announced on Monday.
“We’ve seen equipment coming in from different directions, which they [os russos] are bringing men, who are bringing fuel […]. We understand that they are preparing for a massive attack,” the governor of Luhansk said in a video message.
“The bombings are getting more and more intense. Last night there was an attempt to reach Rubizhne [perto de Luhansk]our defenders repelled them, several tanks were rendered useless, there were dozens of bodies” of Russian soldiers, Gaiday said.
“Yesterday, unfortunately, in the explosion of a mine or an artillery shell, two volunteers died” and “a church was bombed”, which left two priests injured, he added, without giving further details.
Therefore, the governor asked the inhabitants of the region to leave their homes. “Don’t hesitate, please. Today, a thousand people were evacuated. Please don’t expect your homes to be bombed,” he asked in his message.
Ukrainian authorities said on Saturday that Russian forces were withdrawing from the northern regions of Ukraine, in particular the outskirts of Kiev, to be redeployed in the east and south of the country.
“Something terrible is going to happen here,” fears people in eastern Ukraine
In the areas of Donbass still controlled by Ukraine, people are fleeing this region in the east of the country fearing the arrival of Russian troops. Hundreds of women, children and elderly people were waiting for a train at Kramatorsk station.
“Since the weekend, around 2,000 people have been boarding westward daily, to Lviv or another city,” says Nasir, a humanitarian volunteer helping with the operation. At the small train station, whose facade has just been painted red and white, there used to be two or three departures a day, but now there are four. “We men stay, our families leave,” says Andrei, whose wife and two children wait patiently, suitcases at their feet.
Ever since Russia announced that it wants to “concentrate efforts on the liberation of Donbass”, this historic mining area of Ukraine has been experiencing the anguish of a major Russian offensive. Kiev fears the situation will worsen as Russian forces try to encircle the Ukrainian army.
Ukrainian troops have been deployed since 2014 along the front that borders Donetsk to the south and Lugansk to the east – capitals of the two self-proclaimed pro-Russian separatist “republics” – and which runs to Izium in the northwest.
Kramatorsk, the de facto regional capital since October 2014 of the territory still controlled by Kiev, is located in the center of this dangerous area and could be besieged by Moscow troops. “According to the latest information, Russia is bringing its troops to the east and soon we will be surrounded,” fears Viktoria, a doctor with “Humanitarian Assistance”, according to the badge she wears on her chest. She expects the Ukrainian army to withdraw from the area. “This could be the next Mariupol,” she warns, referring to the relentlessly besieged and bombed harbor on the Sea of Azov.
Kramatorsk, located in the Don Basin, had before the war more than 150,000 inhabitants. The war has not yet arrived, the situation is calm, but the streets are deserted, very quiet, perhaps in fear of a storm. “The bombings can start at any moment,” says Andrei. For her part, Svetlana whispers: “Rumors say something terrible is going to happen here.”