Elderly Ukrainian couple left behind in bombed out eastern village
Nevelske sits some 25 km (15 miles) from
Donetsk, the biggest city in the contested eastern Ukraine region where Russia
has backed separatist rebels fighting government troops since 2014. The
conflict has killed 15,000 people to date.
The village had around 300 inhabitants
20 years ago but most have fled. After the latest shelling in November, part of
the most recent escalation of the conflict between Russia and the West over
Ukraine, only five inhabitants are still here.
The Shklyars live without running water
or a stable power supply, relying on the Ukrainian military and aid workers to
deliver basic goods.
A view shows a destroyed house in the settlement of Nevelske, located near the line of separation between the armed forces of Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels in the Donetsk region, Ukraine January 28, 2022. Few local residents stayed and still live in the deserted village after a destructive artillery attack in November 2021. REUTERS/Maksim Levin
Their neighbourhood is mostly made up of
destroyed houses. The nearest shop is too risky to reach across military
roadblocks and the largely dormant but still dangerous line separating Ukraine
from the territory under rebel control.
“It cannot get any worse,”
said Kateryna, her wrinkled face framed by a red hair scarf. “He is 86 and
I am 76 years old. And we live on nothing. Well, we have of course our own
potatoes carrots and onions. But that’s all we have.”
A little food cellar where they keep
glass jars with pickled fruits and vegetables also serves as their bomb
shelter. A cat and a dog are all the company they have left.
Russia has spooked Ukraine and the West
in recent weeks by massing some 120,000 troops near its border with the former
Soviet republic that now wants to join NATO.
Local resident Dmytro embraces his dog outside his house during the visit of a humanitarian mission’s volunteers to the settlement of Nevelske, located near the line of separation between the armed forces of Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels in the Donetsk region, Ukraine January 28, 2022. Dmytro is among few people, who stayed in the deserted village following a destructive artillery attack in November 2021, still lives in his family house but faces difficulties with energy and water supplies. REUTERS/Maksim Levin
Russia has already annexed Crimea from
Ukraine in 2014 and the West has threatened Moscow with grave sanctions if it
invades again, something Russia has repeatedly denied it plans to do.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on
Friday the West has not addressed Moscow’s main security demands in the crisis
over Ukraine but that he is ready to keep talking to avert a further
Kateryna Shklyar, sitting next to her
husband in their house, its walls adorned with thick carpets, wiped away tears.
“I don’t have any words or tears
anymore,” she said. “Everybody has left. Those who had money and
could afford to buy something somewhere – they all left. And where would we go,
two old people, who needs us?”
“You’d better shoot us.”