War is raging around Donetsk, the clash between the pro-Russians and the Kiev Army turns into a bloodbath. Paris and Berlin fear the worst. Paris-Matchcorrespondents Emilie Blachere and Alvaro Canova, aphotographer, reported from the frontlines.
With more than 5,300 deaths and several failed negotiations, the conflict intensifies in eastern Ukraine between the pro-Russian and Ukrainian armies. The last confrontation resulted in the expansion of the separatists’ territory. They now occupy over 500 square kilometers and have overtaken Donetsk airport.
According to Kiev, 1,500 Russian soldiers loaded with rocket launchers and other heavy artillery crossed the border during the weekend, joining the forces already in place for an offensive on the port of Mariupol. The diplomatic ballet initiated by France and Germany continues in hope of swaying Vladimir Putin, but the Russian President remains firm in his position. He provides military support to the rebels, while continuing to deny it. Speaking to the trade unionists in Sochi, Vladimir Putin uses strong words: ”We don’t intend to make war with anyone, we intend to cooperate with everybody.”
On the ground, the conspicuous presence of brand new Russian equipment provoked this reaction from Petro Poroshenko, Ukrainian president brandishing Russian passports found on the battlefield: “Too often, President Putin promised peace and delivered tanks, troops, and weapons.” The sound of boots resonate even louder when US officials talk about delivering lethal weapons to Ukraine. So far the United States and European governments have tried to stay away from this eventuality in favor of negotiations or sanctions. However, Francois Hollande warned, “If we fail to reach a lasting peace agreement, we know the scenario. It’s called war.“
Meanwhile, the civilians that remain do not have a choice; they have no money nor place to go. Certain ones, who were exiled, returned in the fall, convinced that the sound of weapons was behind them. In reality, the heavy crossfire of shells and missiles prevent them from even going outside. Hundreds of people end up packed inside labyrinthine caves. Here they lose hope, but not their sense of solidarity. The days stretch endlessly. When they celebrate birthdays, with cakes made of flour and water, they are those of the dead. Narrow cavities are makeshift alcoves: a hanging sheet at the entrance creates an illusion of privacy. To sleep, families gather in a single room. But even their mornings resemble an endless night…The whole coverage can be found in French in this week’s issue of Paris-Match available on tablet