Disengagement of Forces in Donbas
After the disengagement of forces in the eastern Ukrainian town of Stanytsia Luhanska, more than 70 houses are now considered to be in the so-called buffer zone. Behind them, the Ukrainian military occupies new positions, in front of them — the Russian-occupied territories.
The military said they dismantled their old fortifications near Stanytsia Luhanska, but the Russian-led forces are in no hurry to do the same.
“The previous time we moved a kilometer back, the separatists stayed where they were. They tried to make it look like they were doing something, as if they had dismantled something, but it was purely acting for the cameras. Journalists came, they did something on camera, and they are still in the same position,” Yurii, a Ukrainian soldier, said.
Mykhailo, who comes from the Khmelnytskyi region, has been in the military for two years. He said that just across the Siverskyi Donets River, the militants are not only not dismantling their old structures but building new ones nearby. Therefore, Ukrainian soldiers are keeping a close eye on their movements.
“Now when it’s foggier, we upped our vigilance. We have thermal imagers and night vision devices, and we observe them all night. We pay attention to every noise coming from there,” Mykhailo said.
In Stanytsia Luhanska, after the June withdrawal of forces, 74 households with more than a hundred residents found themselves in the grey zone. Tetiana Herasimova did not leave her home even when there was active fighting in the village. She said, she hasn’t felt safe for a long time.
“From personal experience, I can tell you when military operations are ongoing, don’t expect help from anywhere. You can only rely on yourself. You’ll have to save yourself. This is how it works here,” Herasimova said.
Many residents of the occupied city of Luhansk take a certain street, as they walk through Stanytsia Luhanska to the nearest ATM in the center of the village. They know that the street is now part of the grey zone.
“We’ve been going through here for two years now. We’re not afraid. Everything is quiet here,” a resident said.
The Minsk peace plan stipulates that there must be no Ukrainian military in the village. It’s the police that’s left to keep the order.
“The public security and law and order in this area are taken care of by the Stanytsia-Luhanska Police Department in cooperation with the Luhansk-1 battalion. If something happens, the police of the Stanytsia-Luhanska Police Department will ensure public order in this territory,” Chief of the Stanytsia Luhanska Police Department Oleksandr Klymenko said.
Residents of Stanytsia-Luhanska are reluctant to appear on camera talking about everyday life in the gray zone. Most fear that tomorrow this territory could be occupied and the residents appearing on Ukrainian TV could face serious consequences under Russian-backed authorities.
However, the Ukrainian military assure: they are not going far, they will keep guard and are ready to defend Ukraine.