Divided loyalties in Ukraine city as Russia presses assault

BAKHMUT: The patriotic message states the fact that “Bakhmut To be Ukraine“scribbled on monuments around this frontline city.
But not everyone agrees that it has to be.
The subject was up for debate at the local market, where some of the city’s remaining residents stocked up on food and clothing for the winter when they heard the sound of firecrackers.
One shopper, Yulia, says she trusts Ukrainians forces bombed the cities that were about to be taken by Russia – echoing a popular conspiracy theory on social media.
“I don’t understand why Ukraine is destroying cities,” said the 46-year-old, who declined to give her last name, saying she feared reprisals for her views.
“I heard that Ukraine is doing this to itself to make sure that Russia doesn’t get anything,” Yulia said, leaving the market as the bombing drew nearer and nearer.
She acknowledged that Russia was responsible for the attack on her country but said Ukrainians must now lay down their arms to bring about peace.
Bakhmut is located in the industrial region of Donbas in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels began fighting in 2014 and loyalists are often divided.
Social media groups set up by local residents of Bakhmut, which had 70,000 residents before the war, had posts that criticized the actions of the Ukrainian military but did not actively support Russia.
In the nearby city of Kramatorsk, the main Telegram group used by local residents – “I Love Kramatorsk” – messages praising Russian attacks on Kyiv can get hundreds of likes as well as dozens of negative comments.
Selling cakes from a stall, Lesya46 years old, says that before the war began, she had a thriving textile business with 16 employees – some of whom were “separatists”.
“Some of them fled to Russia thinking they would be able to come back here later” if Bakhmut fell, she said, adding that they had been “drugged” by state propaganda Russia.
Lesya said: “I, I am an ordinary Ukrainian with a son in the Ukrainian army.
“But for them, I am Banderovka” – a reference to the Ukrainian national hero Stepan Bandera, who fought alongside Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union during the Second World War.
Some residents of Donbas accept or support the idea of ​​Moscow taking control in hopes of ending the conflict either because of family ties in Russia or because they identify with the President. Vladimir Putinrhetoric about a “Russian world”.
In a devastated area of ​​Bakhmut where many buildings have been gutted, neighbors go to charge their phones in a shop run by Oksana and Oleksandr, which has a generator.
One day, when an artillery battle between Russian and Ukrainian forces broke out outside, the couple sat watching a Soviet-era film called “Mimino” with two friends from the Russian-administered city of Donetsk – 100 km ( 62 miles) to the south. .
“For me, the question is not whether I am on the left side of the road,” Oksana said.
“It’s the Ukrainian army that’s on the left side of the front line. We didn’t ask them anything and we certainly didn’t ask them to come to our defense.”


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