September 30, 2022


Marina, who did not want her last name revealed for fear of her safety, is one of them.

She decided to stay in her hometown of Kramatorsk, about 10 miles from the front lines, even though she had the means to flee to Kyiv or even western Ukraine, away from active fighting.

She said the prospect of having to collect rainwater for drinking or use wood for heat did not scare her or others who are “led by hope.”

She is also wary of signing the form. “First of all I will sit down and read it carefully,” Marina, 60, said by phone from Kramatorsk, where she has lived all her life.

“I believe in God and I believe in the Ukrainian army,” he added. “This is my destiny.”

Ukraine is eager to remove people from the region to minimize civilian casualties and give it greater operational freedom, analysts said.

Kyiv intends to defend the key cities of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk fiercely, said Michael Clarke, a professor of military studies at King’s College London.

Ukraine’s military is hoping for a strategic victory in the Russian-held south, Clark said, where it is expected to launch a counteroffensive. For any success there to have a political impact, Clark said, it must not lose the rest of Donbas.

Logistically, evacuations give Ukrainians more room to defend or leave a city without having to consider civilians, said Michael A. Horowitz, head of intelligence at the Le Beck consultancy, a geopolitical and security analyst.

“The Ukrainians have also been asking people to evacuate since the beginning, and the presence of civilians has made the job of the Ukrainian military much more difficult,” Horowitz said.

“So Zelenskiy’s order may just be an escalation of efforts to remove civilians from what has become the main battle area,” Horowitz said.

Human rights group Amnesty International said in a report published Thursday that Ukrainian forces have exposed civilians to Russian attacks at times by positioning themselves in schools, residential buildings and other places in residential areas.

Zelensky denounced the report, as did other officials in Kyiv and allies on social media.

Amnesty said in a statement that it made clear “the Ukrainian military practices we have described in no way justify Russia’s routine violations of international humanitarian law.”

“When we find violations of international humanitarian law, as we did in this case, we will report them fairly and accurately. Ignoring violations committed by a favored side would not be a meaningful human rights report,” it said.

Oleksandr Ivanov, a volunteer working for a local aid organization helping with evacuations, told NBC News that people want to stay for a variety of reasons.

“A lot of people can’t leave their elderly parents,” Ivanov said. “For the elderly, it is psychologically difficult to leave. And of course, there are people who believe that until a shell hits their house, they will not leave.”



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