Caught in a cold stand-off: Voices from eastern Ukraine

A fighter jet flies over Ukrainian soldiers on an armoured personnel carrier, Kramatorsk, Ukraine A fighter jet flies over Ukrainian soldiers sitting on an armoured personnel carrier in Kramatorsk

From Mariupol on the south coast to Sumy near the northern border, people in Ukraine have told the BBC of their reactions to the pro-Russian demonstrations and the military response from Kiev.

Pro-Russian activists renewed their protests against the interim government by occupying official buildings in eastern Ukraine at the start of the week.

The occupations are continuing in many places and the government of acting President Olexander Turchynov has warned it will retake control by force, beginning with Ukrainian troops entering the town of Kramatorsk.

William, Kramatorsk

I am staying in Picholkino, part of Kramatorsk, about 10km from the centre of town.

There was a firefight this morning, with 10 armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and Ukrainian soldiers. It sounded like well-controlled rifle fire and then there was auto fire near the end of the fight. There was returning fire from a different direction but very little.

Crisis timeline

  • November 2013: President Viktor Yanukovych abandons an EU deal
  • December: Pro-EU protests erupt
  • 20-21 February 2014: Dozens killed in Kiev clashes
  • 22 February: Mr Yanukovych flees
  • 27-28 February: Pro-Russian gunmen seize key buildings in Crimea
  • 16 March: Crimea voters choose to secede in disputed referendum; Russia later absorbs region
  • April: Pro-Russia activists take over government buildings and police stations in eastern Ukraine

The APCs then made their way over a small bridge on the Torets river, heading uphill toward a highway that leads to both Kramatorsk and Donetsk. About four APCs were left in Kramatorsk.

Currently I am hearing choppers outside. A big gunship just went overhead. There were a lot of jets but right now it seems to have subsided. People are still outside the government building.

Ilia, Mariupol

I'm concerned that in our city we have a very grave situation. Our local government building is locked and is occupied by protesters demanding a referendum and for us to join Russia. Our streets are empty of people.

It is sufficiently safe to walk in the city, but the police and other services advise not to go on the streets unless we need to, so it's better to be at home.

Most of the people here don't support unifying with Russia, they just support enlarging our local powers. The Russian propaganda here is very strong and people don't understand why we would want reunification.

Bill, Sumy

It's extremely quiet in Sumy. It's very much a pro-Ukrainian city. Every morning convoys of cars are driving up and down with Ukrainian flags.

Men in military fatigues ride on an APC in Kramatorsk A Russian flag flies from an armoured personnel carrier in Kramatorsk

These small demonstrations - and they are small - in Donetsk, it's historic. It goes back 50 to 60 years. People were moved from Russia to work in the coal mines.

All demonstrations here - on Sunday, for example - have been pro-Ukrainian. Everybody here would vote to be part of Ukraine.

Michael, Lugansk

Yesterday I bought a lot with a partially constructed house, classed as a rubble pile. We were going to go to the gas company today but shooting could start anytime.

Some buildings have been taken over. The violence is affecting business here. The demonstrators here have arms and start shooting, so you're afraid to go to work.

Eugenia, Kharkiv

It's a really terrible situation here, maybe not so terrible as in Horlivka or Lugansk, but still awful.

Ordinary civil citizens here in eastern Ukraine, in my city, want to stay in Ukraine. We don't want the referendum, we just want a new peaceful life without Russian tension and pressure, but we are helpless.

I think we should stay in Ukraine as Russia is not part of our country - it's a different mentality.

Now it is very hard as we have a lot of Russian citizens who have come here and pretend they are citizens of Ukraine. They go into the town centre drunk and throw things at ordinary people who support the Ukrainian government.

Written by Richard Irvine-Brown and Amber Dawson.

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