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In shadow of war, Ukrainians seek to vote for peace

Updated : March 20, 2019 01:21 PM IST

Destruction and damage are widespread after five years of conflict over eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists. Around 13,000 people have been killed, a quarter of them civilians, according to the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.

Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. Employees from the state-run Oschadbank travel by armoured truck to a nearby checkpoint, to allow residents on both sides of the conflict to withdraw money.

Some six hundred kilometres (400 miles) away in Kiev, President Petro Poroshenko has made standing up to Russia a central thrust of what has become a tough political battle for reelection. Those planning to take part in the March 31 presidential vote say the conflict is the single biggest issue facing the country but struggle to identify who can best end it.

Zaitseve, in the country's mainly Russian-speaking Donetsk region, was captured by rebels in the early months of the campaign and could not vote in the 2014 election that brought Poroshenko to power. The village was re-taken by government troops in summer 2015 but peace is still elusive.

Local resident Galina Soboleva (C) walks along a road with other women in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 22, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine, but voters like Soboleva want just one thing from this month's presidential election.
Local resident Galina Soboleva (C) walks along a road with other women in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 22, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine, but voters like Soboleva want just one thing from this month's presidential election. "Whoever promises us peace, to rebuild our homes, we will vote for them. That's all we need", the pensioner said. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Local residents stand in line to an ATM located in an armoured truck after crossing the contact line between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian troops near the front line in Mayorsk, Ukraine, February 25, 2019. Employees from the state-run Oschadbank travel by armoured truck to a nearby checkpoint, to allow residents on both sides of the conflict to withdraw money. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Local residents stand in line to an ATM located in an armoured truck after crossing the contact line between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian troops near the front line in Mayorsk, Ukraine, February 25, 2019. Employees from the state-run Oschadbank travel by armoured truck to a nearby checkpoint, to allow residents on both sides of the conflict to withdraw money. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Oleg, a Lieutenant-Colonel who did not give his last name, is seen at the front line in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine February 23, 2019. For some of the soldiers on the front line, peace is not enough. Oleg said the heavy toll of killed and wounded, both military and civilian meant there was only one option:
Oleg, a Lieutenant-Colonel who did not give his last name, is seen at the front line in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine February 23, 2019. For some of the soldiers on the front line, peace is not enough. Oleg said the heavy toll of killed and wounded, both military and civilian meant there was only one option: "Only victory will do". REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
A woman sits outside her house as windows are covered with wood to protect from shrapnel near the front line in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 23, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
A woman sits outside her house as windows are covered with wood to protect from shrapnel near the front line in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 23, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Local resident Raisa Taranenko, 73, speaks with her neighbour pensioner Nikolai Yushkov, 70, near her house, which is around 600 meters from the separatist trenches in Mayorsk, Ukraine, February 22, 2019. Families like that of Yushkov are divided by the conflict. He, his son and daughter live on government-controlled land while another daughter lives under separatist control, where election is not being held.
Local resident Raisa Taranenko, 73, speaks with her neighbour pensioner Nikolai Yushkov, 70, near her house, which is around 600 meters from the separatist trenches in Mayorsk, Ukraine, February 22, 2019. Families like that of Yushkov are divided by the conflict. He, his son and daughter live on government-controlled land while another daughter lives under separatist control, where election is not being held. "Everyone says: you need to sit down and you need to negotiate", he said. "Peace. We need peace". The single-storey building he shares with another family has survived shelling that destroyed surrounding buildings but is just 600 metres from the separatist trenches. One outer wall, destroyed by fighting, has been replaced by a stack of firewood. Taranenko, whose family shares the building with Yushkov, also shared his desire for an end to the war. "But it's not clear how the situation will develop. There is no hope for anything", she said. "Everything is getting worse and worse". REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Ilya, nom de guerre Gandalf, member of Ukraine's interior ministry's Azov battalion with the prosthetic left arm, is seen at a front line near the village of Travneve, Ukraine February 24, 2019. Ilya, who has lost an eye and an arm, said:
Ilya, nom de guerre Gandalf, member of Ukraine's interior ministry's Azov battalion with the prosthetic left arm, is seen at a front line near the village of Travneve, Ukraine February 24, 2019. Ilya, who has lost an eye and an arm, said: "Those who are counting on peace - they will get peace, but on foreign and hostile conditions. And we don't need such peace - too many lives, too much energy, money and time are invested in this war". REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Local residents receive free bread in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 23, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Local residents receive free bread in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 23, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Free bread for the local resident is seen near the front line in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine February 23, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Free bread for the local resident is seen near the front line in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine February 23, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Ukrainian serviceman carries bread at the front line in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 23, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Ukrainian serviceman carries bread at the front line in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 23, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Members of Ukraine's interior ministry's Azov battalion are seen at a front line near the village of Travneve, Ukraine, February 24, 2019. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Members of Ukraine's interior ministry's Azov battalion are seen at a front line near the village of Travneve, Ukraine, February 24, 2019. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Ukrainian border guards walk past a mine-warning sign near the contact line between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian troops in Mayorsk, Ukraine, February 25, 2019. More than a million people cross the 500 km contact line every year, many of them are pensioners who spend hours queuing, in cold, heat, rain or snow, as they rely on state benefits that can only be obtained on the government-controlled side. The sign in Russian reads:
Ukrainian border guards walk past a mine-warning sign near the contact line between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian troops in Mayorsk, Ukraine, February 25, 2019. More than a million people cross the 500 km contact line every year, many of them are pensioners who spend hours queuing, in cold, heat, rain or snow, as they rely on state benefits that can only be obtained on the government-controlled side. The sign in Russian reads: "Don't leave the road. The area along the road is mined." REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
People line up as border guards check their luggage before they go through passport control, after crossing the contact line between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian troops in Mayorsk, Ukraine, February 25, 2019. More than a million people cross the 500 km contact line every year, many of them are pensioners who spend hours queuing, in cold, heat, rain or snow, as they rely on state benefits that can only be obtained on the government-controlled side. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
People line up as border guards check their luggage before they go through passport control, after crossing the contact line between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian troops in Mayorsk, Ukraine, February 25, 2019. More than a million people cross the 500 km contact line every year, many of them are pensioners who spend hours queuing, in cold, heat, rain or snow, as they rely on state benefits that can only be obtained on the government-controlled side. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
A house damaged by shelling is seen in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 26, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
A house damaged by shelling is seen in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 26, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
A local resident rides a bicycle past the houses destroyed by shelling in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 22, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
A local resident rides a bicycle past the houses destroyed by shelling in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 22, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Local residents listen to a Ukrainian chaplain during a service in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 22, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
Local residents listen to a Ukrainian chaplain during a service in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 22, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
A house damaged by shelling is seen in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 26, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
A house damaged by shelling is seen in the village of Zaitseve, Ukraine, February 26, 2019. There are not many people left in Zaitseve, a village on the front line that divides Ukraine between government-controlled territory and the enclave controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces. Troops are stationed in trenches outside Zaitseve and government trucks risk rebel fire to bring bread, coal, firewood and other goods along a dirt road. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
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