Fighting in Ukraine takes toll on civilians in the east

World Today

Heavy artillery and mortar fire in eastern Ukraine has taken a huge toll on civilian lives. The government-held town of Debaltseve has been a battlefield for weeks. Many residents are at breaking point. CCTV’s Kate Parkinson reported the story from eastern Ukraine.

Fighting in Ukraine takes toll on civilians in the east

Heavy artillery and mortar fire in eastern Ukraine has taken a huge toll on civilian lives. The government-held town of Debaltseve has been a battlefield for weeks. Many residents are at breaking point. CCTV's Kate Parkinson reported the story from eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian tanks were on the one road to Debaltseve, a town still under Kiev’s control. The military said pro-Russian separatists appeared to be amassing forces around the besieged town and planning a fresh offensive.

The rebels have been steadily encroaching on Debaltseve, but Kiev said it’s confident its forces have the firepower and manpower to hold on to the strategic town. Residents of Debaltseve said they’re at breaking point as their town is turned into a battlefield.

Around 3,000 people still live here in With their town turned into a battlefield. That’s a small fraction of the towns pre-conflict population of 25,000. These people were queuing for food supplies, but they said help doesn’t come very often. Everyday, more and more people are leaving, taking with them only what they can carry and not knowing if they will ever return.

“I don’t know where we are going. We are simply going because of the war, because of the cold, because there is no electricity no heating no gas. We have nothing,” Debaltseve resident, Lyudmila said. “For three weeks we have been without electricity. In our apartment it is 1 degree. I don’t know how to take care of my child.”

However, leaving is not an option for some. Debaltseve resident, Oleg said he had to stay despite the difficult conditions, such as the daily shelling and the sleepless nights for his son.

“Where should these old people go? Where to go? They are 70, 80 years-old. What should they do?” Oleg said. “Here at least I can make them tea and my wife can make soup for them because it’s really very difficult for people here. And there is nowhere for us to go.”

Train carriages are being used as temporary accommodation for people who’ve fled the fighting. The United Nations said more than a million people have been displaced by this conflict.

Some people in Debaltseve said they’ll go and stay with relatives elsewhere in Ukraine. Others said they didn’t know where they’d end up.