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Sep 28

Ugg på rea

We have left the main road and are now driving south towards Donetsk – along the front.A forest unfolds to our right, that is where the Ukrainian army are positioned. To the left are the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic’s positions.”There was shelling here yesterday and the day before, which is why people are avoiding this road today,” Driving Gloves informs me.His expression remains the same. As if he were telling me that it has been snowing for a few days.We have passed through roadblock after roadblock, to get from the west to the eastern side of the front; I cannot even remember how many.I remember the scenes.

Yellow and blue flags flapping in the icy wind, atop bunkers made from concrete blocks and sandbags. A soldier from the Ukrainian army with his finger on the trigger. The weary faces of soldiers and civilians.Two or three kilometre long traffic queues. Entire families squeezed into Ladas that would never pass an MOT and barely even be of interest to a scrapyard.Mirrors on long metal rods being poked under vehicles. Identification documents passing in and out of windows. Bags being searched.The really poor, who have no form of transportation, shivering in rows. People who have collected their medication or pension, or who have been to visit a relative.

The fear of not getting through the roadblock and having to sleep rough.Anger escalating into fists or knives, when someone tries to jump the queue.The desperation that grows as nightfall approaches. At the final government-controlled roadblock I got an exit stamp in my passport.After that we drove into no man’s land.We saw no one. But some people do still live here – a small number of pensioners without the energy to flee, who are living off their farms and waiting for death in the comfort of their own homes.The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic’s first roadblock is located in what was once a petrol station. I am instructed to show my passport to someone in a hotdog kiosk. I do not get an entry stamp – where I have been since I left the last Ukrainian roadblock will always be a mystery.