8 May 2014, 21:57

Despite shortages and blockade, Slavyansk remains defiant - journalist

Despite shortages and blockade, Slavyansk remains defiant - journalist

The situation in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk reportedly remains calm, even though self-defense forces are on heightened alert, bracing for a possible assault by Ukraine’s government troops. The city is now encircled by pro-Kiev troops, who are reportedly preventing any civilians from leaving it. Graham Phillips, UK journalist based in Ukraine, described the current situation in the city to VoR.

Graham, you are in Slavyansk. What is currently going in the city?

I’ve been here for a month now. And the days like today, I mean, we really had the first peaceful moment. At least, last night we haven't heard any military actions happening. We had funerals yesterday. It was a very emotional day and people were on the streets. They were really screaming and shouting, there were real emotions.

And you have the backdrop of the city that is barricaded up and basically every street is shutoff. I mean, the outer perimeter is still effectively controlled by the Ukrainian forces, but when you come into the city, in closed areas, they are in the hands of these pro-referendum, pro-Donetsk activists. So, we deal with the city still in the state of siege.

Yesterday we had of course Pavel Gubarev – the former people’s governor of Donetsk – who was here. He’s been exchanged for three fighters of the Alpha unit who would be sent to Kiev and Gubarev was here.

And then, we also saw actions of building up for the fortifying of the barricades. And today we’ve had a press conference. Now, we used to have press conferences in Slavyansk every day, but they were cancelled some time ago. We haven't seen the Mayor for some time. It is really hard to get an idea sometimes of what is going on.

We have a curfew in the city, but no one is really sure what time exactly. Things like a noise of gunfire have become regular. These things are standard in the street of Slavyansk. You do understand it from the air of a city that is in a state of war.

And we have situations such as shops running out of provision, people queuing for hours for bread and provision. But then, there are other parts of the city where shops are open. So, it is really hard to get an idea sometimes of what actual picture here is, because there is almost like a blackout in terms of communication.

The Mayor, who was confronted, is alive, despite the reports telling that he has been killed. His press secretary said that he is alive but he is keeping a low profile. And then, she did confirm that Slavyansk is ready to hold this referendum on the 11th .

She didn’t confirm that they actually will hold this referendum. So, what we had subsequent to that was Donetsk announcing that they would go ahead. And of course, the Russian President Mr. Putin yesterday advised to postpone this referendum.

So, we have Lugansk and Donetsk and they will go ahead. Slavyansk hasn’t issued a concrete affirmation that a referendum will take place. So, we really are just going to have to wait and see what is going to happen.

Of course, tomorrow is a Victory Day and there will be a celebration here. I mean, life is going on. There is no question, this is a twisted reality that we have here.

Most shops are closed or they open for a few hours and then close. Most people just stay indoors. And you have a kind of constant intense of what is going to come next.

We had this incident with the helicopters in early morning attack, firing rockets on the city. You know, these horrific stories of Monday, when the Ukrainian Army or the National Guard arrived in the east of the city and effectively opened fire.

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