The Streets Are Empty As The Shells Keep Falling In Eastern Ukraine : Parallels The precarious cease-fire is in danger of collapse after repeated violations by both sides. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley traveled through Donetsk as the shelling spread through residential neighborhoods.
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The Streets Are Empty As The Shells Keep Falling In Eastern Ukraine

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The Streets Are Empty As The Shells Keep Falling In Eastern Ukraine

The Streets Are Empty As The Shells Keep Falling In Eastern Ukraine

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here's a glimpse of life in eastern Ukraine; a cease-fire means some people can return to their home.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Violations of that cease-fire means other people can't.

INSKEEP: Fighting continues around a separatist stronghold - the city of Donetsk. Pro-Russian insurgents control that town and want to take the airport.

CORNISH: Artillery fire from that battle has been landing in residential neighborhoods. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley had a look.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIREN)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: We followed a team from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the multinational group that's monitoring this cease-fire. Riding through the empty streets of Donetsk, we had an official escort from local police officers of the Donetsk People's Republic. That probably gave us an unwarranted sense of security, though we were wearing helmets and flak jackets. Turning onto a residential street a mile or so from the airport, we stopped by a building that was smoking and still on fire. It happened to be in interpreter Pasha’s neighborhood.

PASHA: It's my block.

BEARDSLEY: Are you serious, Pasha?

PASHA: No, no, no, my house is there, but it's a market. It's a public market.

BEARDSLEY: Barely had we gotten out of the car to take a look when...

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSION)

BEARDSLEY: I want to get out of here. I want to get out of here. Jesus, we're gone. Let's go.

Everyone scrambles and jumps back in their cars, but our driver seems frozen and then...

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSION)

BEARDSLEY: A second blast rocks our car. Pasha yells at the driver to snap out of it and move. It turns out those martyr shells landed less than 200 yards from us. So much for the cease-fire. Earlier we visited the village of Novokaterinovka, the site of a major battle at the end of August. Two burned-out Ukrainian tanks still lie by the side of the road. The people here endured even worse shelling for five-and-a-half hours, cowering in their basements. Svetlana Duginova and her daughter are picking through the rubble of her 83-year-old parents' destroyed house.

SVETLANA DUGINOVA: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: Duginova describes the horrors of that day when she says the shelling started at 9 in the morning and went straight into the afternoon. She says her parents were in the basement of this house the whole time.

DUGINOVA: (Through translator) We're all still afraid, but grandma is petrified. She runs into the basement now every time she hears any kind of noise. She thinks it's a shell.

BEARDSLEY: The peace agreement signed in Minsk, Belarus, 10 days ago stipulates that the Eastern areas of Ukraine will receive greater autonomy from Kiev yet remain within the country. But separatist leaders here now say they want their own country - the Donetsk People's Republic. The East of Ukraine is carved up into areas controlled by separatists and government troops. You're forced to pass through numerous checkpoints when you want to get from place to place, and you never know which side will be manning them. Separatist fighters checked our IDs at this checkpoint coming into Donetsk. They make us get out of the car. Interpreter Pasha tries to engage in small talk with the soldiers to lighten the tension. Back in the village of Novokaterinovka, there hasn't been running water or electricity for a month. Duginova and her daughter, Klaudia Fedorashko, are pulling buckets of water from a well. So which side do they support in this conflict, I ask?

DUGINOVA: (Foreign language spoken).

BEARDSLEY: Neither side, we have no preference whatsoever, they say - we just want peace. We don't know who and when that will be, but we are also tired of this. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Novokaterinovka, Ukraine.

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