February 21, 2022
TARAMCHUK, Ukraine (Reuters) – Valeriy, a Ukrainian pensioner living near front lines with Russian-backed separatists, says his village has been shelled three times within days despite having no possible targets except an old cargo truck. That makes him angry and fearful.
The population of tiny Taramchuk, on the edge of government-controlled territory, has shriveled to under 10 since separatist forces seized a swathe of Ukraine’s east in 2014, triggering conflict with the Ukrainian army.
Now the rumble of heavy weapons, largely muted for years, is escalating anew amid signs of Russia preparing for a full-blown invasion of Ukraine, and 63-year-old Valeriy fears the worst after shelling struck his house on Sunday.
“Today (Sunday) at 9 a.m., while I was sitting in the house chatting with my neighbour Alekseyevich, I heard several shells crash in the immediate area. Shrapnel hit my roof,” he told a Reuters visitor later that day.
“We don’t have anything here (of military importance). The scariest thing here is an old ZIL-131 ‘armoured vehicle’ manufactured in 1973,” he said sarcastically, referring to a vintage Soviet cargo truck.
Valeriy showed Reuters the rubble of his late neighbour’s vacant brick home that he said was flattened by shells on Feb. 17. “It was a direct hit. The fence was destroyed. Nothing left here. It is a shame. What did they fire at? What for?
“We’ve lived next to the front lines for eight years.” he continued. “But I am the only ‘fighter’ here. A few people live nearby, but they are above 80 years old. ‘The scariest’ fighters they are.”
Valeriy said he had a son and grandson living in Donetsk, the main city in one of two self-declared, separatist mini-republics.
“I speak by phone to many people there. There are hundreds of people I know there. No one wants this shit,” he said, referring to fears of all-out conflict. “What is happening there and here is absurd.”
(Reporting by Margaryta Chornokondratenko Editing by Mark Heinrich)