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Donetsk residents flee as Ukraine conflict worsens

Donetsk residents are fleeing the area with Russia saying it has set up refugee camps on the other side of the border, as the conflict in eastern Ukraine stepped up a notch.

UKRAINE: The conflict in eastern Ukraine stepped up a notch as rebels shot down two Ukrainian military planes on Wednesday (July 23), in a sign that despite the international attention drawn by the MH17 tragedy, it will not lead to a break in hostilities.

Local residents are now fleeing the area, with Russia saying it has set up refugee camps on the other side of the border. Travellers throng Donetsk railway station, desperately fleeing a war zone.

Over 400 civilians have been killed here since fighting began in April, and calls for a ceasefire after the MH17 crash have gone unanswered. One resident said: "My town used to be a quiet and happy place, now there are soldiers shooting everywhere. Three houses were destroyed by rocket fire - the neighbourhood is almost empty.”

Just metres from the main railways station, a residential block was hit by Ukrainian rocket fire on Monday, killing three. The army is closing in on the separatist held city - leaving people fearing a major assault.

The separatists had called for a break in fighting in exchange for their co-operation with the plane investigation - but Kiev called that blackmail. Another resident said he does not support the separatists, but was lucky to escape with his life when a Ukrainian shell landed in his living room. "I was in here on the phone and when the shooting started I went into the other room to find out what was happening on the Internet, and five minutes later the rocket came,” he said.

As the crash investigation goes on, it is being obstructed both by the separatists and by ongoing fighting in the increasingly volatile war. The Ukrainian army continues to shell residential areas, turning local people against them and making it harder for investigators to work. 

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