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Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor Continue reading
It’s been a while! You’ll have to forgive my online absence. I went through a bit of a writing drought and came down with a bit of a cold, but more material will be coming!
On Monday I traveled with a Dutch journalist and two local Donetsk lads to check out a Ukrainian military position/camp in eastern Ukraine.
I’m planning on doing a more thorough write-up on this experience, but for now here is what it looks like on the ground.
By Samuel Greenfield
Beer bottles and an abandoned jacket lie in a ditch littered with garbage beside a wind-swept section of road leading up to the checkpoint at the Ukrainian-Russian border near Novoazovs’k.
A bit closer are anti-tank obstacles, stray dogs lingering on the road, and a few small commercial enterprises serving by-passers and boarder guards. Then comes the red and white traffic barrier and the Ukrainian border guard with his Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder.
Beyond this point we cannot pass. Tough out of luck. We had just made a grueling journey by bus to Novoazovs’k and then finally by taxi to the border. Our goal was to see the defensive trench that Ukraine has dug to defend itself from any potential invasion. Across the field near the checkpoint we can see a mound of earth that almost certainly is a tell-tale sign of our subject matter.
There are no Ukrainian soldiers here. No tanks, artillery pieces just a trickle of vehicles and pedestrians passing through. The border is still open and business must go on.
We’ve already been rebuffed at the gate but two more uniformed men step out of one of the shops – possibly a bar – so I go up and give it a shot. One of them is the commander and he speaks relatively fluent English. He pulls out his cell phone and calls a superior.
Everyone under the age of 50 here has a cell phone – not a break-the-bank smart phone like everyone runs around with in Canada, but at least one of their more basic and slender cousins that feed a market constrained by a GDP per capita of $3,867 USD.
The answer comes back negative. Without accreditation we can’t pass the traffic barrier. Our only consolation is that we are allowed to take photos outside the restricted zone, but it’s not what we came for.
One of the stray dogs can saunter off into the restricted zone without difficulty. Whether this should be signified as a compliment or an insult to our human presence is debatable.
Igor, the commander, tells us they have stopped more than 100 people at this border crossing whom they suspected were heading into Ukraine to take part of protests.
It’s claimed by some that pro-Russian participants in the sometimes violent clashes here in eastern Ukraine are coming in from across the border.
We take a taxi back to the bus terminal in Novoazovs’k. The terminal appears to have been frozen in time during the Soviet era yet without any significant maintenance to stop the degeneration that comes with decades of wear.
On my first time through the building, whilst holding a cup, I managed to stumble over a water pipe running along the floor just inside the entrance and slop coffee on the ground. The bathrooms feature squat toilets and reek of urine.
This is pro-Russian territory and soon we’ve struck up a conversation with a couple of locals outside of a small general store near the terminal building. It’s difficult though. Roman, the French journalist in our small troupe, is the only person who can lay claim to a Russian vocabulary larger than 30 words.
The younger of the two locals had a small English vocabulary which he would attempt to render useful in the conversation with great difficulty.
We are joined by another man, an older fellow in a black leather jacket suffering from an obvious case of afternoon intoxication. At one point he produces a nearly empty clear glass bottle and proceeds to drain the remainder of its contents in one go.
When the first two men leave, the drunk man won’t let us out of his sight. He follows us into the store. We try to lose him by circling around the building and by entering a side door. He totters after us. It’s going to be a long wait for the bus back to Donetsk.
AFP via Yahoo: Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea authorized to use arms in self defense after one soldier killed
FROM AFP via Yahoo ‘“For their self defence and protection of their lives, Ukrainian servicemen… deployed in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea are allowed to use arms,” the Ukrainian defence ministry said in a statement.‘
And for a live blog of news for the Ukrainian crisis visit here.