Updated: Thursday, 10 July 2014 15:58 | By Agence France-Presse

No water, no power, no food but Slavyansk has peace

The people of Slavyansk would dearly love to believe Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko who promised "everything is going to be fixed up" during a lightning visit to the former bastion of pro-Russian rebels on Wednesday. 


No water, no power, no food but Slavyansk has peace

Ukrainian soldiers feed pigeons next to their APC, near the city hall on July 8, 2014 in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk - by Sergey Bobok

All but one street of this city of 100,000 people is without electricity and residents still have to draw water from municipal fountains. Hundreds spent the day milling around the central square waiting for humanitarian aid. The shops are open but there are not many customers since so few people have been paid. Even if they had been, the cash machines don't work.

Tankers distribute drinking water and two taxi vans laden with provisions donated by people from the central Ukrainian region of Cherkasy dole out tomatoes, preserves and bacon. 

The road between the city and Kramatorsk, another former pro-Russian stronghold was reopened on Wednesday, but very few vehicles have dared to make the trip until it is completely cleared of mines.

The end to the fighting after separatist militia fled the city on Saturday in the face of a Ukrainian army advance has, however, given people hope. And their morale was lifted further by Poroshenko's visit on Tuesday.

- Living under 'bandit' rule -

"Yesterday the president came here, today it's (Interior Minister) Arsen Avakov. They say they are going to create jobs," said Alexander, a 42-year-old businessman, who was afraid to give his surname.

"Those bandits (the pro-Russian separatists) stole $30,000 (22,000 euros) worth of my merchandise. Lots of my friends were locked up in basements by them just because they criticised them. 

"Look," he said, referring to Ukrainian troops, "there are still armed men here, but no one is afraid of them." 

Nina, 62, was one of several hundred residents who came out to listen to Poroshenko when he gave a speech in the central square dressed in military fatigues. 

"I trust him and I think he is sincere," she said. "I think he wants to be the president of all of Ukraine. He wants to fix everything up." 

"They say that we voted massively (for independence from Ukraine) in the referendum," she added, referring to the vote the separatists organised in May. "But lots of people voted against it," she insisted. 

President Poroshenko declared that Slavyansk and the area around it was not liberated just because of the Ukrainian advance. "It was because the people understood that they cannot live staring down the barrel of the bandits' guns," he told journalists in the city.

He said he was confident that the Ukrainian army would soon retake the regional capitals of Donetsk and Lugansk, which are still in rebel hands.

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