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Meet the Donetsk citizens forced to live in underground bunkers to escape shelling

Ukrainian forces are shelling indiscriminately into civilian areas Photo: ITV News

Donetsk is the capital of the land seized by the Moscow-backed rebels. Last spring the city was Ukrainian, now it’s going through a Russian winter.

A battle still rages close to the airport. We can hear the crump of artillery fire day and night.

Some of it’s uncomfortably close to the city centre.

Ukrainian forces are shelling indiscriminately into civilian areas Credit: ITV News

The Ukrainians may have lost Donetsk but they certainly don’t want the rebels to think they have forgotten about it.

As well as fighting the separatists the Ukrainians have been firing indiscriminately into civilian areas to spread panic.

In the last 24 hours, four people were killed by random shelling here. Many have now taken to living in underground bunkers to escape the explosions.

Many people have now taken to living in underground bunkers to escape shelling Credit: ITV News

Three weeks ago 21-year-old Nastya Limonova became a mother. Yesterday, she became a widow.

After a difficult birth, she, her husband Dimitri, and their newborn Milana, had stayed on in hospital. But they ran out of baby milk. Dimitri went out to get more and never returned.

A shell landed beside him as he was walking to their home.

Nastya described how she kept on ringing his mobile, but there was no reply.

After two hours of trying, her call to Dimitri’s phone was finally answered – whoever it was told her he’d been taken to the morgue.

New mother Nastya Limonova has been widowed by the fighting Credit: ITV News
Newborn Milana will never meet her father, Dmitri Credit: ITV News

We reached Donetsk on Saturday. On the journey we had to drive from Ukraine into the territory held by the Russian-backed separatists.

At the last big Ukrainian Army checkpoint a soldier asked for our passports. He checked that we had Ukrainian entry stamps. It felt like we were crossing a border into a different country.

Perhaps Kiev is resigned to losing a sizeable chunk of what was, until last spring, eastern Ukraine.

If Ukraine ever does join NATO or the EU it seems Russia will have a buffer-zone of separation. Today it’s called the People’s Republic of Donetsk.

John Irvine met new mother, recently-widowed Nastya, in Donetsk Credit: ITV News
The shelling has destroyed many buildings in the region Credit: ITV News

There are reports that Washington is considering arming the Ukrainians.

Russia is already arming their rebel allies. The separatist leader announced today that he was going to raise 100,000 more fighting men.

At the weekend there was an attempt to re-instate the ceasefire, but the talks in Minsk got nowhere and quickly broke down.

All the signs suggest this war is going to escalate.

ITV News senior international correspondent John Irvine reports:

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