Hazards of Crossing the Front Line
Nearly one million Ukrainians cross the border from the eastern region occupied by Russian-led forces into government-controlled territory each month
It’s a difficult, gruelling and dangerous journey. There’s always a risk of being caught in the crossfire or stepping on a mine.
Vera Maslova, 76, travels to see her relatives. She said shelling has only intensified since Volodymyr Zelensky became president.
“We hope (for the better). And we have always had hope, and still hope. But no one knows if it is going to work out,” she said.
Zelensky has previously said he will do everything in his power, except making territorial concessions, in order to bring an end to the fighting between Russian-led forces and government troops in Donbas.
Some residents spend hours crossing into the government-controlled territory to visit family or to collect their pension.
“Well, on this site, I wouldn’t complain in general, it is fast in most cases. But on the militant side, it takes two-three hours to wait. We stay there for four hours sometimes. Today it was fine. Just one hour and a half,” pensioner Boris Karlov said.
“When I was here in March, the queue was just huge. It was a bit easier here, but on the other side I was waiting for some four hours, so many people were there. Today it is fine. It’s great today,” Viktor, a Luhansk pensioner said.
For pensioners, it’s a particularly hard task with some fainting after hours of standing and little nourishment. According to data obtained by RFE/RL from the UN, so far at least 29 civilians have died this year while making the journey.
“The average daily flow of people (through checkpoints on a contact line) is between 35,000 to 45,000 people. It depends on a weekday and dates of social payments, which are in the beginning and in the end of the month. In total, more than a quarter of a million people crossed the contact line in one week,” Deputy Commander of Ukrainian border guard service Oleh Lychkovsky said.
The Ukrainian government and international organizations have sought to improve conditions by providing tents and toilets. The border guards also wear cameras to prevent illegal incidents.