DONETSK, June 21. /Corr. ITAR-TASS Dmitry Buyanin/. Ukrainians resident in the zone of hostilities, still reluctant to abandon their homes, have been making brief visits to Russia to see what a refugee can count on. Those refugees who have already left Ukraine are taken to different regions of Russia from a tent camp set up next to the checkpoint Donetsk, on the outskirts of a same-name Russian city in the Rostov Region on the Seversky Donets river.
The city was the first to have opened one of the four large tent camps for refugees, capable of accommodating five hundred a day. Over the three days it has been open the camp has provided assistance to 15 hundred refugees, one-third of them children. The refugees, mostly of them from the neighbouring Lugansk Region, say they had to flee for fear of a military crackdown.
WHO IS LEAVING UKRAINE
“The city is brimming with rumours that an active military operation may begin here on June 22. So far we have only heard explosions and shots. Usually I do not believe such gossip, but this time I decided to take my family out of the city,” says middle-aged man Vitaly.
Painter and sculptor Lyubov Yurieva says she managed to leave the community of Gorskoye, near Lugansk, with great problems.
“We left because the thunder kept us awake throughout the night. In fact, we fled the city. At first we could not find anybody who would agree to take us out. Fortunately, we managed to persuade one driver. We are a large family. There are seven of us here and we are waiting for more relatives to arrive,” Lyubov said.
Their tent, just as all others, provides shelter for 20, but some beds remain vacant,
“There were 14 people, but seven have now been taken to Stary Oskol, in the Belgorod Region, where better accommodation alternatives emerged. We are looking forward to a chance to go to Togliatti, to our friends who are ready to have us,” she adds.
WHERE DO PEOPLE GO
The refugees have a variety of opportunities to choose from - regular inter-city busses, taxicabs, volunteers offering their own cars, or special coaches. Many regions have responded to the request for accommodating refugees. Arrangements are made for centralized transfers to different regions of Russia.
“Today we have sent 100 people by two busses to Kursk, 60 have left for Tver, and another 40, to Kamensk-Shakhtinsky. Two hundred people were through the camp during half of the day. Others have taken their places. Night hours are the busiest time. There may be 300 people or more. They have themselves registered, undergo medical examination and go to their tents. In the morning they have breakfast. We offer three meals a day,” says deputy chief of the Emergency Situations Ministry’s southern regional centre, Anatoly Saprunovsky.
WHAT DOES THE REFUGEE CAMP LOOK LIKE?
The tent camp is equipped to meet practically all basic human needs - it has dormitories, a first aid room, two playrooms, two canteens, a kitchen, a shower, a police office, a desk of the federal migration service FMS, a tent with TV sets, a waiting lounge, a communication room for contacting relatives and so on. There will be even a small playground and a mobile chapel, sponsored by the local church.
“Our parishioners and church workers are going to distribute humanitarian aid. Daily prayers will be conducted for the restoration of peace in fraternal Ukraine, says Donetsk’s priest Vladimir Tatarkin.
TRAFFIC JAMS ON THE ROAD TO UKRAINE AND RUSSIA
The flow of refugees is continuing unabated. The Rostov Region alone has already housed more than 10,000 forced migrants. Quite a few are moving the other way. At the border checkpoint traffic jams and crowds of people on the way back to Ukraine are frequent. At times, though, one may see large crowds and long lines of cars on the road, while the checkpoint itself remains idle. “Many are here just to learn the latest news from home,” says the chief of the Rostov Region’s border guard department, Vasily Malayev. They are eager to know what’s the situation is like and if there are any hostilities on the way back.”
Most Ukrainians interviewed near the checkpoint are saying they still feel scared at the thought of returning home. But, after spending sometime in Russia they begin to feel calmer, for now they know they have a safe haven where to go if shellings begin.
“We are going home in hope our home has not been looted yet. We do not wish to leave hour home unattended, but staying there is a great risk, too. We haven’t decided to move yet. We are here to see what we can count on, if we are forced to flee. Ukrainians enjoy a very warm and kind attitude here. We really appreciate it. But we hope that next time we shall come here of our own accord and not out of fear.