Roadblocks ring eastern Ukraine town - Tucson News Now

Roadblocks ring eastern Ukraine town

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Ukrainian forces hold a checkpoint near the Ukrainian town of Slavyansk. (Source: CNN) Ukrainian forces hold a checkpoint near the Ukrainian town of Slavyansk. (Source: CNN)
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SLAVYANSK, UKRAINE (CNN) – On Saturday, Petro Proshenko is set to take office as the elected president of Ukraine.

That as security forces try to regain control of Slavyansk from Russian separatists.

It's a town cut off from the world. All roads out of Slavyansk blocked by Ukrainian forces. In the distance the crump of artillery fire as the army continues its assault on rebel territory. A trickle of frightened locals are escaping, women and children, shuttled out of town.

"They're not my relatives," says Vladimir, a Slavyansk local. "I'm just helping them get out. It's hell down there."

But we can't get in. The main road from Slavyansk through the Russian border to Rostov-on-don - usually a busy highway - is deserted.

There have been two warning shots - they sound like warning shots. The road has clearly - a few days ago we think - been mortared or shelled because the mud looks as if it has dried. We've seen two cars pass - one down and one up, and I asked the driver coming through whether he felt it was safe to go there. And as far as I could tell he was like, "no, no, no."

This part of Ukraine is a maze of roadblocks, army and separatist. In a forest east of Slavyansk a group of about 70 militants are digging in. They're well equipped - anti-aircraft guns, RPGs. They say they are not locals, but will not tell us where they are from.

One of them had an answer for why they have blocked a road going down to Krasny Liman.

"Because Krasny Liman is seized by Ukrainian fascists and we don't want them here," said Prapor, a pro-Russian commander.

Krasny Liman, a town close to Slavyansk, is back in Ukrainian hands - the government's first victory in many weeks. A unit of the Interior Ministry staffed by local men guard the town hall. But a nearby hospital is in ruins. And the thunder of heavy guns is not far away.

"I've worked here for more than 20 years. It's terrible that this has happened. Who can dare to destroy our hospital? It's inhuman from all sides, whoever did it," said Nadezhda Natalchenka, a nurse.

Locals say they think it was mortars that hit the hospital, from Ukrainian positions. It's hard to tell whether it was shells or mortars or rockets. And there's also been strafing from the air.

When you look at the extent of the damage it's surprising, really, that only four people were injured. But it was the only building that was hit in town and it begs the question why whoever was firing should have chosen a hospital as their target.

Whether there were rebels inside or not, the scenes are hard to explain to people who don't know whom to trust.

Copyright 2014 CNN. All rights reserved.

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