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Video: The fight to defend Ukraine’s strategic Debaltseve

FRANCE 24 I A truck drives down the road to Debaltseve

As fighting in eastern Ukraine continues, the country’s military is struggling to defend the town of Debaltseve, which lies on a strategic road 70 km northeast of Donetsk. FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg and Marine Courtade report from the front lines.


Pro-Russian separatists have surrounded the town on three sides, regularly battering it with artillery fire. There is only one road into Debaltseve from Ukrainian-held territory.

“The bombardment is ongoing, as you've heard,” Yevgeny Yukhanov, Debaltseve’s chief of police, told FRANCE 24 on Thursday. “We've had two people wounded already this morning.”

Despite the heavy artillery fire, the town’s main police station remains open to the public. It is now mandatory for residents to request a travel pass if they want to cross over into separatist-held territory.

While Ukraine’s government has insisted that the measure is necessary to track people’s movements for security reasons, it is unpopular among many who find it inhibitive.

“I can’t go home without a pass. I’ve been waiting three days and today they started bombing us at 5 a.m.,” said Lyudmila (who did not give her last name), a resident in the separatist-held city of Krasnyi Luch.

Meanwhile, Debaltseve’s inhabitants are living in a town under siege.

“I live in a five-storey building. The fifth storey got hit and collapsed. At my age I have to take shelter in someone else’s home,” Lyubov (who did not give her last name), a local resident, said. “I blame both sides [for the fighting].”

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