A group of some 200 children have been evacuated to Russia’s Crimea from the Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, which has become the scene of constant battles between local militia and troops loyal to Kiev.
The children, aged between 8 and 16, are being housed in various summer camps on the peninsula. The journey was not entirely trouble free. On Friday, there were reports that buses carrying the evacuated children were not allowed to cross the border by Ukrainian guards and had to turn back. But now all of them are safe in Russia.
“The city often comes under mortar shelling. People get hurt as a result. A mortar shell splinter the size of a walnut hit my grandpa’s leg and pierced the bone. If it went a little deeper, it could hit an artery, and that would be it for him,” one of the evacuees, Vladislav, said.
“It’s so unusually calm and quiet here compared to Slavyansk. No explosions going off. It was scary. Nobody expected that things like that could start in our city, which was never famous for anything,” another one, Maria, said.
“I was very scared. There were explosions. My dad just celebrated his birthday and he was woken by the sound of shelling on that day. I’m very glad I’m here now. It’s calm here,” said Darya, a girl in her early teens.
“What was frightening is when a shell flew by your window or you heard shots fired nearby. That’s what frightening,” said a boy called Artyom.
While Kiev’s troops say they are not targeting civilians in their onslaught on the militias, artillery fire regularly hits residential areas in Slavyansk. On Friday morning, several shells hit a children’s policlinic and a hospital in the city. Earlier in the week a kindergarten and a school were damaged. So it’s no surprise that Slavyansk residents want to get their children away from the city.