Pro-Russian separatists have said they are tightening the noose around Ukrainian troops in the government-held town of Debaltseve, Ukraine. The rebels said they have taken control of a village to the north of the town and their forces have Debaltseve surrounded, but Kiev said it’s troops are still fighting along the main highway to the north of the town. CCTV’s Kate Parkinson reported this story from Artemivsk, Ukraine.
As fighting rages in Debaltseve, residents of a nearby town are making preparations in case the war spills over onto their doorstep.
On the edge of the town, members of the Artemivsk battalion are dug in, positioned to defend the town against separatist forces.
The rebels are on the war path, eager to expand their territory. They launched a new offensive last month that has put Kiev’s forces at a disadvantage.
Because of its close proximity to Debaltseve, there is concern the rebels will soon advance on Artemivsk. While the town has been untouched by the war, rebel positions are still out of range and no shells have landed within it’s limits, and people are hoping it will stay that way.
“I am absolutely sure that Debaltseve will remain a Ukrainian town. And we are all confident, and have hope, that the war will not spread,” Aleksei Reva, Mayor of Artemivsk said. “But if it happens, although I don’t believe it, we are preparing the population for evacuation, preparing our defenses.”
Schools in the town are preparing children for the worst and teaching them what to do if there is shelling.
They practice drills three times a week, so the children know exactly what they need to do.
“Of course the children understand there is a big danger and that’s why their survival instincts plus our drills allow them to do all this carefully and in a well-organized way,” Deputy Principal Anna Zhovta said.
With the war creeping closer, residents of Artemivsk are getting ready to fight, flee, or hunker down.
There are many bomb shelters in the town where preparations are being made just in case of the conflict. Officials said up to 50 people could seek refuge within one shelter, they’ve already laid out bedding, there is food, they’ve been checking the lighting and ventilation and there are gas masks.
The people said they hope the war doesn’t come to Artemivsk, but if it does they’ll be ready.