The tiny village of Semyona is a tiny dot in Ukraine’s southern border, not big enough to attract the attention of the dominant political forces in the capital, Kiev.
But with Russia’s March intervention in Ukraine’s southeastern borderlands, many residents say they’ve felt a chill in their chests for several months. It has also got them up early every morning, preparing for a battle they say Putin’s troops could be fighting any day.
“The border area is tense. Ukraine is our country and we just want it to be under control,” said Pyotr Serna, 48, who runs a vegetable farm here, just as he and other villagers used to on a regular basis.
Fighting in Ukraine’s east has thrust Semyona and other villages into a world that changes so quickly from one day to the next. Ukraine’s government has reported dozens of attacks by Russian-backed separatists and dozens of deaths on both sides of the border.
Several independent analysts have concluded that the source of the attacks has been a handful of Russian troops captured by Ukraine during a confrontation near the Russian-Ukrainian border. But the involvement of regular Russian troops remains a point of contention between the two sides.