Fear Grips Donetsk Streets After Bloody Airport Battle

Fear Grips Donetsk Streets After Bloody Airport Battle

(AFP) As a short burst of shelling and machine gun fire subsides somewhere in the middle distance, Lera Meteiko crouches by the roadside with a few plastic bags of her possessions.

She had watched from her apartment building overlooking Donetsk airport as Ukrainian government helicopters on Monday battled rebels fighters with bazookas and Kalashnikovs in what was until then a peaceful suburban neighbourhood.

On Tuesday, the firing — more sporadic at least — had been rocking the area at intervals since around 7 am.

Further along, an elderly woman in a black dress carries a battered bag along the almost deserted street on her way to meet some friends she’ll be staying with.

A few metres away the signs of Monday’s brutal fighting are easy to spot. A green flatbed military truck — that people say belonged to the rebels — stands at an angle on the road with its windscreen riddled with bullet holes and one side blown apart.

– ‘Everyone is very afraid’ –

Around it lies the detritus of carnage: bullet casings and pools of blood. On the other side of the road there is someone’s scalp. Brains are smeared on the curb.

Staring at it from a distance, shop assistant Evgenia Simonova, 28, leans on her bicycle as she smokes a cigarette.

The government claimed Tuesday it had recaptured Donetsk airport from the pro-Russian separatists after air strikes and intense firefights that officials say left at least 40 dead.

For the few local residents braving Donetsk’s eerily empty streets the situation is confusing but normal life still breaks through.

Fighters are nowhere to be seen but local residents have set up barricades of tyres and bulldozers on the road into town.

Sergei and his two friends can’t help laughing when a middle-aged woman and her husband stop to ask them if it’s safe to head to her workplace next to the airport.