It is one of the many bordering areas where the activity
unusual of the Russian army has been detected on the satellite images that have been circulating since Christmas.
Our team stopped for a coffee and some petrol when a man offered to guide us to Striguny, a village with barely 2,000 inhabitants.
A left turn, 10 kilometers later leaving the main road and it was enough to arrive in front of what looks like a battlefield.
One tank, two, three… four and it goes on. An entire column of these tanks is immobilized, with several soldiers sitting or standing on a dirt road that leads to the village cheese factory.
Customers stop, some speechless, to take pictures or videos, because they’ve never seen anything like it, life-size.
They don’t really talk to us, they are very discreet, but one of them came to ask if he could charge his phone heresays Marina Fabre, the owner of the cheese factory.
When she hears us talking, her face lights up and she immediately switches to French.
We are very worriedsays Marina.
Her husband is originally from France, but she, like many in the region, is half Russian half Ukrainian. She says living with soldiers and tanks is tough on morale. For her, the most difficult thing is above all not knowing exactly what they intend to do.
” They must have arrived during the night a few days ago, because I came home to work one morning and they were already there. I immediately called the village administration to ask what they were doing, and I was told that these are planned exercises, not to worry. But it’s hard to interpret all that that means. »
The soldiers may be in Russia, on their own territory, but that does not take away the concern of several residents because
this is the first time we’ve seen this, war machines walking around here near the border, really we’ve never seen thisexplains the mother.
” My daughter even cried when she saw them. For my son, who is younger, it’s a bit like a game. But it scares us, very scared. »
Especially since Marina’s cousins live 80 kilometers across the border, in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
Kharkiv is one of the Russian-speaking cities in eastern Ukraine, which resisted pro-Russian separatists in 2014 and where resistance has been organizing for a few weeks, in case the Russian army attacks.
Marina and her cousins have only spoken on the phone since the border was closed in 2019.: \”So what? What do they say back home?\””,”text”:”We write or call each other with my cousins in Ukraine, to say to each other: \”So what What do they say back home?\””}}”>We write to each other or call each other with my cousins in Ukraine, to say to each other: “So what? What are they saying back home?”
” I tell them it’s the same with us. Except that the names of the leaders are reversed. But we no longer know where the truth is and where the lies are. Here. And it is catastrophic. »
The threat of an invasion, of a provocation, in short of a short war with Ukraine is for her and so many Russians a completely absurd possibility. I really hope we don’t use them, Marina said, pointing at the soldiers.
We share the same traditions, the same family. So I can’t separate Russians and Ukrainians in my environment. It’s the same people, explains Marina, her hand on her stomach. She is pregnant with a third child.
We grew up all our lives with the notion that a war is the worst thing that can happen, to see this in your lifetime. […] it’s not possible. It’s not possiblesays Marina Fabre.
At the checkout, two ladies have come to buy fresh cheese, and they don’t seem unduly disturbed by the presence of dozens of tanks at the entrance.
Me, it comforts me to know that they are there! Especially with everything going on in the worldsaid the oldest.
And my son is an army officer, you know, he’s not deployed here in the area; to be honest, I can’t tell you more.
Moreover, all the soldiers we saw in the village interacted little or not at all with the residents.
We only know that they came from Vladivostok to the other end of Russia completelysays Oxana, a mother we met in front of the church.
It also appears that the tanks are empty at the moment; in fact, that’s what my husband heardshe adds.
They’re just waiting for orders, but it seems a friend of mine has spoken to them and they’re waiting for ammo to be delivered to them, but those are just rumours.
In reality, no one knows their intentions or their destination. But for Oxana, the scene is anxiety-provoking.
When I see these huge war machines, I want to hide in a hole and not come out. […] I didn’t bring children into the world to see warconcludes Oxana.
On leaving school, children have fun following on the white snow the huge black tracks left by the passing tanks.
Arsène tells us that he is not afraid, but asks himself questions, from the height of his nine years and with the wisdom of a child.
The soldiers are here […] we are a border town. But the Ukrainians are not enemies.
Sonia, who is the same age, listens attentively before adding that she finds it strange to see them here and that she prefers to see them leave, because that will mean that there will be no war.
I don’t think kids are proud to see that. It interests them, especially the boys, but it can in any case be mine. They are afraid, says Marina Fabre. She says she grew up with the notion that the worst thing that can happen in life is war.: \”All that can’t be. A great war in our lifetime is impossible!\””,”text”:”We say to ourselves: \”All that can’t be. A great war in our lifetime is impossible!\””}}’>We say to ourselves: “All that can’t be. A great war in our lifetime is impossible!”
And just as our team was leaving the village at dusk, we could see several of the tanks moving towards the station, to park there near the tracks.
” We heard that the exercise is going to end, but is it true? There were many more yesterday, so they moved, several left, but to go where? We do not know anything. »
As of this writing on Friday, February 18, the US envoy to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) estimates that the number of troops deployed near the Ukrainian border, from the Crimean peninsula to in Belarus, fluctuated between 170,000 and 190,000.