Rebels dig new line of trenches in Ukraine


YASYNUVATA: A dozen volunteers dug a new line of trenches in the pro-Russian separatist east of Ukraine to keep out Kiev’s tanks.

“We are preparing reserve positions in the event of a possible offensive by Kiev,” says 49-year-old Oleg.

The trench-digging project was launched a month ago by a separatist battalion called Vostok, or east.

In front of Oleg stretch several hundred metres of trenches, equipped with three shelters made of tree trunks. All were dug by Oleg and his fellow separatist supporters.

Calling themselves “volunteers”, a group of 20 or 30 gather at weekends near a cemetery on the outskirts of Yasynuvata, a small town near the rebels’ de facto capital Donetsk and just three kilometres from the front line.

“The enemy is just behind that hill,” says 50-year-old Andrei, a bearded fighter in camouflage from the Vostok battalion.

Armed with spades, saws and hammers, the men are building what they call a “second fortified line” for the armed forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR).

“If you want peace, prepare for war,” Andrei repeats, using a Latin phrase.

The conflict between the Ukrainian army and the Russian-backed rebels in the east has claimed more than 10,000 lives since April 2014.

“We regularly hear bellicose speeches from Ukrainian government officials saying we must be purged and defeated,” says Andrei.