Ukraine crisis: Uneasy standoff in Kramatorsk

A father and his daughter walk past a column of Ukrainian armoured vehicles in Kramatorsk - 16 April 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Residents of the small town in eastern Ukraine are uneasy about the presence of Ukrainian troops

People in the town of Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine are very nervous. Many have not slept for several nights.

When Ukrainian armoured personnel carriers (APCs) appeared in the town on Wednesday, people quickly surrounded them. Some accused soldiers of "acting against their own people."

"Why did you come to our land?" a man from the crowd asked. "Why are you driving over our fields? We are peaceful people! And we just want our demands to be respected!"

Soldiers were sitting on the APCs with automatic guns, in full combat gear.

"I know they can shoot at us, but we are miners, we see death every day," the man said. "So we are not afraid. We will stand here until victory. We want a referendum to be held. We should decide our future for ourselves."

Some people suggested helping the soldiers, who looked quite tired. Their faces were covered with dirt and dust. Some people, especially old women, were suggesting they bring food.

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Media captionVillagers in Kramatorsk tried to stop a convoy of Ukrainian soldiers

Meanwhile, a few kilometres away from Kramatorsk, there was a real standoff between soldiers and local people.

Around 10 vehicles were moving in the direction of Kramatorsk but they were blocked by angry locals who called the soldiers "traitors."

"We are just obeying orders, let us go!" the commander shouted. "We didn't come here to fight. We are just moving around. I will never shoot at my own people!"

"What if the order comes?" asked a woman in the crowd.

"I obey my orders but if the order to shoot comes, I won't do it. It would be illegal and unjust."

A few minutes later the soldiers did shoot - but in the air. They managed to get through this line of protesters, but the standoffs will continue.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Crowds of locals surrounded a column of Ukrainian APCs to stop them from proceeding