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Fear in east Ukraine’s Donetsk as shells hit homes, hospital

Women walk after shelling in Donetsk on August 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF

DONETSK, Ukraine: Tatyana had just stepped out of the small kitchen in her Donetsk flat when an explosion blasted through the windows, shattering all the glass.

Her tiny studio apartment, complete with a large stuffed dog and a portrait of the Virgin Mary, is on east Ukraine’s new front line as shelling and missile attacks reach deeper into the city center.

The bloody war between Ukrainian forces and separatist insurgents is seeing shelling and missile attacks on residential areas of the leafy coal-mining city that once had around a million inhabitants.

“I was in here, but thank God I had stepped into the bathroom,” Tatyana said of the attack Thursday afternoon. “There was an explosion, glass was flying. The plates were swept off the table,” she recollected.

The gaping windows of her kitchen and living room look onto a belt of dense woodland, from where AFP heard shelling on Friday.

Locals disagreed regarding who was responsible.

“I doubt that it was the [rebel]Donetsk People’s Republic forces,” said 51-year-old Tatyana.

“There’s too many people on their side in this area, for them to shoot us.”

“This is awful ... I can’t forgive [Ukrainian President Petro] Poroshenko,” said Natalya, a middle-aged woman in a stripy T-shirt who runs a local residents’ group.

But Lyudmila, a seamstress, said she saw rebels gathering shrapnel and believed they were concealing evidence “so people don’t find out where it came from – Russia.”

She said she planned to go to “where there is Ukraine, where there is no Donetsk People’s Republic, no Lugansk People’s Republic, and no terrorism.”

The damage in western Donetsk is widespread and seemingly random, hitting multi-story apartment blocks, schools and detached houses.

In one block of flats, the side wall has a roundish hole clear through to a flat on the eighth floor, surrounded by a charred black stain.

Luckily the owners were away, neighbors said.

Natalya, a young mother living in the area, showed AFP a crater and what appeared to be part of a missile, in a kindergarten playground.

The city’s mayor’s office said three were killed in Thursday’s attacks.

The reality of the shelling has pushed many residents to finally flee the city.

“We hate it here, we’ll probably go away,” said Natalya, a young woman in leggings with plaited hair, who said she and her 4-year-old son were thrown against the wall by the force of the blast.

As she spoke, the sound of shelling rang out, sending locals running for cover.

In an attack reaching into central Donetsk Thursday afternoon, shelling damaged a hospital that treats patients suffering from jaw and facial injuries.

Windows were blown out on all the five floors. A huge hole gaped in one wall and inside, dentist chairs were twisted and tossed around wards and covered with a layer of blackish dust.

“We crawled on all fours with our patients, it was scary,” said Anna Kuropatova, a nurse in charge of one of the wards. A young man died after being dragged into the hospital with a shrapnel injury close to his heart, while three others were wounded, she added.

Kuropatova said her flat was in the front-line zone of Maryinka and for her, the hospital bombardment was the final straw after 26 years working there. “I am leaving now – for Russia,” she said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 09, 2014, on page 9.

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Summary

Tatyana had just stepped out of the small kitchen in her Donetsk flat when an explosion blasted through the windows, shattering all the glass.

Her tiny studio apartment, complete with a large stuffed dog and a portrait of the Virgin Mary, is on east Ukraine's new front line as shelling and missile attacks reach deeper into the city center.

The damage in western Donetsk is widespread and seemingly random, hitting multi-story apartment blocks, schools and detached houses.

In one block of flats, the side wall has a roundish hole clear through to a flat on the eighth floor, surrounded by a charred black stain.

Kuropatova said her flat was in the front-line zone of Maryinka and for her, the hospital bombardment was the final straw after 26 years working there.


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