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Video: uneasy calm in Ukraine's battle-scarred Donetsk

Photo: FRANCE 24 | A rebel soldier in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk

Since the start of a ceasefire last Friday, a fragile and uneasy calm has descended over eastern Ukraine's rebel stronghold of Donetsk, where the scars of five months of devastating clashes are plain for all to see.

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But despite the pause in hostilities, the deep divisions between the separatists and the rest of Ukraine seem more entrenched than ever.

In the northern suburbs of the city, FRANCE 24's reporters encounter rebel soldiers guarding a bridge close to the frontline – just a kilometre away, Ukrainian troops are dug in at what was once an international airport.

For the separatists, the ceasefire agreement changes little.

"On the very first day, just after the ceasefire was announced, this was fired at us,” says one, brandishing the remnants of an artillery shell. "It landed right on the bridge."

They're even more dismissive about the idea of ever being a part of Ukraine again.

"Only independence,” says the soldier. “How can we possibly stay with them after they've killed so many innocent people and destroyed so many houses. How could we possibly go back to them. It's just not going to happen."

Donetsk was once a reasonably prosperous city. But today, shops have closed down and the local economy is falling apart.

For one local butcher, the blame lays squarely with Kiev.

"Look, I'm a woman but they have tormented me so much I would kill them all,” she says. “I hate them that much. What else do you expect me to think of them?"

Others take a more objective view.

"If only everyone would throw down their weapons,” says Tatyana Anatolyevna, chief doctor at the district hospital in the suburb of Petrovka, one of the city's worst hit.

“I've got tears in my eyes. The husband of one of my staff was killed. He died of a shrapnel wound. There is grief everywhere – and on the other side too because their sons are being sent to fight against us. We are all suffering."

Such voices of reason are seldom heard in this increasingly bitter and vengeful conflict.

For now, the ceasefire is holding and talks for a more lasting peace are ongoing.

But with the spirit of compromise seemingly in short supply, it may be too late now to repair the damage.

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