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‘We don’t matter’: Fuming at Kyiv under Russian bombs

Vladyslav Kopatskiy pulls the groceries from the back of his car and casts a quick glance at the horizon for signs of smoke from incoming Russian shells.Many residents of this frontline village of Novomykolaivka and other areas of Ukraine’s war-torn east are believed to back the Russians.The 24-year-old lists cases of locals arrested on suspicion of giving away coordinates of Ukrainian missile systems and rear bases that then come under Russian attack.”We try to talk to them, explain things to them, but people who have a Soviet upbringing are not easy to convince. They have one point of view and they stick to it.”- ‘They give us away’ -“They give the Russians our coordinates. That is certain,” a soldier who uses the nom de guerre Zastava said during a brief break from five days of hard battle at the front.”The older ones — they do not want to support us.” They live side-by-side with Ukrainian speakers with older ties to the region — and a longer memory of Kremlin repressions dating back to the times of Joseph Stalin.- ‘I blame both governments’ -The wheelchair-bound 48-year-old has spent the past week listening in the dark to screaming war planes and bursting shells scattering shrapnel across surrounding farms.The air in his wooden house feels heavy because all the windows have been shuttered for weeks to limit the dangers posed by exploding glass.”If the people in Kyiv were still experiencing what we are experiencing here, everything would be different. I blame both governments, both sides. We don’t matter to them.”Part of the anger at Kyiv stems from the trapped families’ financial destitution.And the war is now being fought across regions whose fragile economies were devastated by a Russian-backed insurgency that followed Ukraine’s 2014 pro-EU revolt.But that town was hit by a wave a missile strikes four days after their arrival.A fuel shortage crisis further limits mobility. The few petrol stations still operating in the war zone limit sales to 10 or 20 litres per car.One policeman watching stone-faced families return with their belongings to towns booming with the thuds of shellfire could barely hold back his tears.”I tell them not to go back in and they say they have nowhere else to go. They say if it kills them, it kills them.”…

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