In neighboring Bakhmut those with nowhere else to go brace for their arrival

Ben Wedeman in Bakhmut

At first glance Bakhmut doesn’t look like a city at war.

As we drive into the city in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine on a warm sunny morning, men in orange vests tend to the roses. The tall trees shading the streets are thick with leaves.

Traffic is light because of fuel shortages, so many residents get around on bicycles.

This peaceful façade, however, is deceptive. Explosions regularly echo over Bakhmut: the blasts of outgoing and incoming artillery and rockets outside, and occasionally inside, the city.

Tetyana volunteers with the bread distribution. When I ask if she intends to stay in Bakhmut if Russian forces push closer, her demeanor changes. She shakes her head.

“We love our town. Our graves are here. Our parents lived here. We won’t go anywhere,” she insists, her voice quivering. Tears well up in her eyes. “It’s our land. We won’t give it up to anyone. Even if it’s destroyed, we’ll rebuild. Everything will be…” and here she gives two thumbs up.

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