Russian troop build-up reports spark concerns

Russian troop build-up reports spark concerns

Moscow: As US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, prepare for talks via video conference Tuesday on the tense situation in Ukraine, residents in the eastern Donbass region brace for another year of conflict. FRANCE 24's Gulliver Cragg and Maria Verenikova report from the Ukrainian side of the frontline.

Avdiivka in Ukraine's eastern Donbass region has remained a bustling town – despite being right on the frontline. That's thanks largely to its gargantuan coking plant.

But most people here don't like to talk about the war.

"No comment," said a passer-by, before shouting to her dog, in Russian, "Come on!"

"I try not to watch the news. Life's been hard enough on us already," another Avdiivka resident told FRANCE 24.

On the southern edge of town though, a warren of bombed-out factory buildings forms part of the Ukrainian line of defence.

According to Ukrainian soldiers, there's fighting nearly every day, since Russian-backed forces are less than 100 metres from here."There's no logical sequence to their actions. It's like… any kind of shooting might start up at any moment," explained Myhailo, a Ukrainian army's senior lieutenant.

For the lieutenant, "will Russia invade Ukraine?" is not the right question: "Russian forces are already on Ukrainian territory! What more proof do you need than when the Ukrainian army takes a prisoner and he has Russian documents, a Russian passport?"

But Captain Denis says he does not expect a major escalation in fighting. "We're always hearing that there's going to be some kind of attack, or about a build-up of Russian forces… I don't believe in it. The losses on their side would be too great," he maintained.

Although tensions have been rising in the past few months, the frontline in Donbass has not moved significantly for nearly seven years. Russia does not accept Ukraine's pro-Western orientation, and Ukraine does not accept the occupation of part of its territory by the Kremlin's forces. But in the unlikely named town of New York just five kilometres from the frontline, residents are very alarmed by recent reports of a Russian troop build-up, particularly when the source is US


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