Sometimes, people in Donetsk hear a heavy rumbling in the distance, other times, the windowpanes tremble in the buildings downtown. But people in eastern Ukraine have become accustomed to the sounds of war.
Pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian army have fought in a standoff at the airport for months. Repeated and protracted nighttime shoot-outs reduced it to rubble long ago.
Now, the story of Donbass can be seen in the continuing fight amid the remains of the terminals and runways. The town’s three million residents live in limbo as the people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk split from Ukraine – but unlike Crimea, Russia has not annexed them, nor shown signs of wanting to do so.
The country is united, according to the Ukrainian government. But at the same time, pensions are no longer paid to the retirees living in separatist-controlled areas following an order by President Petro Poroshenko. Wages for doctors and teachers have been stopped; public institutions and branches of the last Ukrainian bank are being shut down.