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4 Feb, 2017 08:50

Dealing with damage: Locals in Donetsk clear debris after days of shelling (EXCLUSIVE)

The eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk is dealing with extensive damage done by days-long shelling. RT travelled to the city to find out about the plight of the locals.

“We first heard a huge explosion. Half of the windows were blown out,” one man says.

“Within an hour we heard a second explosion, which broke the rest of windows. We rushed out into the corridor. When we returned later we found several bits of shrapnel in our rooms,” he adds.

RT’s Murad Gazdiev, who is in the embattled Donetsk, says that “you can literally feel the explosions through vibrations and tremors they cause every few seconds.” A particularly large blast caused all the car alarms to go off in the city.

The scale of damage is harrowing: five schools, two kindergartens, shops, a lot of homes were hit, Gazdiev says, citing local authorities.

“Everything is broken... I was so lucky not to be home at the time of the shelling... My bed was here...” an elderly woman says.

Reconstruction and repairs are underway in Donetsk, and OSCE monitors are at the scene, cataloguing the damage.

The humanitarian plight of the locals is not the only thing that worries the monitors.

“The mission is recording forbidden weapons on both sides of the conflict line in areas where they shouldn’t be. The consistent fighting has led to critical infrastructure such as electrical grids, gas pipelines, water pipelines, have been interrupted and destroyed. The town of Avdeevka is out of electricity for the good part of the last five days,” Alexander Hug, who heads the mission, told RT.

Winter is also taking its toll, Hug said.

“The temperatures here are still... 10 minus, and civilians suffer.”

It comes a couple of days after a BBC correspondent working in the area reported on Ukrainian tanks in residential areas in Avdeevka.

The OSCE condemned the step as a violation of the Minsk agreement, while the Ukrainian military in the Donbass region vehemently denied that any tanks were in Avdeevka.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine started three years ago, when people in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions rejected the coup in Kiev which saw then-President Viktor Yanukovich ousted, and fighting between local militias and the Ukrainian military ensued. The conflict has claimed more than 10,000 lives so far.

The Minsk peace accords were signed two years ago by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany, and France, and called for a full ceasefire from both sides of the conflict, as well as the withdrawal of heavy weapons. Another key point was the constant monitoring of the situation by international observers on the ground.