RT joins a team bringing basic supplies to civilians fleeing the Russia-Ukraine conflict zone
© Dmitry Plotnikov
In just a few weeks, the UN estimates that over 2.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine. Prompted by Russia’s military attack, this is the second great exodus from the country in under a decade. The first came after the events of the 2014 Kiev ‘Maidan,’ which led to the Western-backed overthrow of a democratically elected government, Moscow’s reabsorption of Crimea and an attritional civil war in the Donbass.
Back then, most of those seeking to escape the turmoil chose Poland or Russia, depending on their ethnic, political or traditional leanings. However, at this moment, European Union countries are overwhelmingly the destinations of choice. Nevertheless, a significant amount of people have sought refuge in both Russia itself and in the Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (LPR) People’s Republics, which were officially recognised as states by Moscow, last month.
There they receive accommodation, meals, and medical help. But not everybody can leave towns and villages that are under fire right now. Those who have ended up behind the Donbass front lines are also suffering. They have survived shelling and fighting in their towns, and now they are facing a life in ruins. In some places, the new authorities have already restored basic utilities, but there are remote areas that are still desperate for help. These are the places where volunteers go, bringing basic necessities to people.
RT asked Dmitry Plotnikov to go to the Mariupol area with the TYL (Rear)-22 volunteers. He saw with his own eyes how Donbass residents are trying to go back to their normal lives after yet more trauma.
Mariupol is a large city, situated on the Azov Sea, about 50km from the Russian border. It’s also 100km south of the larger Donetsk, which de facto left Kiev’s control, back in 2014. Fighting in the area has been intense, due to its strategic importance and its status as the base of ultra-nationalist Ukrainian fighters, such as the Neo-Nazi Azov battalion.
Volunteers start their days early. They never know where exactly they will be sent on a given day. It depends on the situation near the frontline and army movements – they receive the details at the very last moment.