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Feature: Ukrainians hope for de-escalation of tensions with Russia

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Feature: Ukrainians hope for de-escalation of tensions with Russia

(Xinhua) 16:31, February 16, 2022

KIEV, Feb. 16 (Xinhua) — “The importance of peace is difficult to overestimate,” an Ukrainian serviceman with the first name Petro told Xinhua recently when asked about the current tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

The 32-year-old, who refused to give his last name over security concerns, was enlisted in the Armed Forces of Ukraine in 2011. Since 2014, he has served as a sergeant in eastern Ukraine’s Lugansk and Donetsk regions, together known as Donbas.

The conflict in Donbas started in April 2014 after government forces launched offensives to regain control of the cities and towns seized by armed groups which had declared independence from Kiev.

Russia has long accused Kiev of refusing to comply with the Minsk peace agreements designed to end the conflict in Donbas. Ukraine said it stands ready to implement the deals but not on Moscow’s terms.

“In 2014, I went to Donbas without really knowing the reason for it. I just had to perform the tasks of the command,” Petro said.

He said Ukrainian soldiers have remained calm despite media reports of possible escalating tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

Since November, Kiev and some Western countries have accused Russia of assembling heavy troops near the Ukrainian border with a possible intention of “invasion.”

Denying any intention to attack any country, Russia said it has the right to mobilize troops within its borders to defend its territory, as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s increasing military activities near Russia’s borders constitute a threat to Russia’s border security.

In another development, the United States and some other countries have advised their citizens to leave Ukraine, stoking fears that a conflict is looming.

“Well, the tension is felt, of course, but in fact, nothing has changed. My relatives and classmates constantly call me and ask: ‘Will there be a war?’ But I don’t know if there will be a war,” Petro said.

Born into a military family, Petro always knew that he would become a serviceman and defend his motherland. Still, Petro said he would like to see a peaceful resolution of the situation.

“I have been a serviceman for my whole adult life. I can’t say that I’m dissatisfied with my life, but it’s hard,” Petro said, adding that he is dreaming of having a family after the situation stabilizes.

“I want to have a wife and children, but it is difficult to make a family on the frontline,” he said.

Last week, authorities in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev approved an evacuation plan in case of a possible escalation of tensions between Ukraine and Russia, in which they determined the location of evacuation centers, required number of vehicles, and safe regions to accommodate the evacuees.

Alexander Pogrebisky, a deputy at Kiev City Council, told Xinhua that the council last month adopted a program “to increase the defense capability within the framework of the powers that we have at the local level.”

Meanwhile, most of the chats in offices and restaurants in Kiev among ordinary Ukrainians ended up with discussing the tensions. Many Kiev residents have temporarily moved abroad or to cities in western Ukraine, like Lviv or Uzhgorod, in search for a safer place.

Tatiana, a 39-year-old Ukrainian design engineer for heating and boiler systems, who only gave her first name, is among those who stayed.

She told Xinhua that she is not afraid of the current tensions, but sometimes feels anxious about the security situation in Kiev.

“Sometimes I have negative emotions due to informational pressure and intimidation of people with fake news,” she said.

Tatiana, who is on maternity leave, noted that the current situation has not affected the life of her family and the construction business of her husband.

“The planned work is carried out. He got some new projects,” she said.

The mother-of-two did not stock up food and water amid the tensions. “We do not plan to make special stocks of products. The grocery shops will continue to operate as they did in 2014 and during the (COVID-19 quarantine) red zone,” Tatiana said.

At the same time, Tatiana said she hoped that all the conflicts can be stopped one day to prevent more human suffering and that people can learn to resolve issues peacefully.

(Web editor: ZhongWenxing, LiangJun)