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The Vasilievka checkpoint was the only possible passage in the Zaporizhia region between the part annexed by Russia and the rest of Ukraine. Commercial freight has been prohibited there since September 10, and since December 15, it is ordinary civilians by car who can no longer pass, until January 15. Officially, you need a special permit issued by the administration installed by Russia, but in reality, almost no one passes.
With our special correspondent in Vasilievka, Anissa El Jabri
For the IAEA on an inspection mission at the end of August to the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, and of course all the civilians, Vasilievka was the one and only crossing point, and it is now over since December 15. At the height of the traffic, this road saw “ between 500 and 1000 cars per day, with a 2 to 3 km queue said Vasily. From his village of Burchak 60 km away, his fastest journey time was four hours and the longest two days. Like him, many of them slept in their cars to cross the Dnieper, which had become a front line.
This Monday, December 19, this 56-year-old mechanic presented himself at the first Russian checkpoint: he was turned back. The procedure is new: Now you need to register with the administration, then you come to the site. And they look at the lists, whether it has your last name or not. ” Vassili says he doesn’t know why he wasn’t there… and yet it is essential for him to be able to go to the city of Zaporijjia: “ My wife is hospitalized there because she has been paralyzed for five months, and I took her there because many doctors had left here and there were no more medicines. »
These drugs have now arrived in this part of the region annexed by Russia, but they remain, he says, “ four times cheaper in Zaporizhia “. So at the age of 56, within three days at the latest, he will try his luck again at the barrage, will resume this dangerous route as there are many exchanges of artillery fire. The craters they leave on the way are still visible.
In the meantime, the ballet continues at the first checkpoint: they are rare, but the vast majority of cars continue to be turned back. RFI for its part received the exclusive authorization to pass this control and to go to the village a little further. “ Yes, we have enhanced security “, says a soldier who asks to be presented under the code name “ Bars “. The attacks in Melitopol and the possible infiltrations of the Ukrainian army by the Dnieper which are much talked about in Russia have been there.
“ There’s definitely tension says a man crossed in Vasiliekva. But for him, the main thing is let there be no aggravation and everyone can live in the calm and peace of Russia “. Like the Kremlin and Russian state television, he describes Ukrainians as “ fascists » and says to himself « relieved of the departure of gangsters and drug addicts protected by the Ukrainian police “. He does some of his shopping in Mélitopol where he says he finds certain products, such as mobile phones, cheaper.
” They are all gone »
However, on this Saint-Nicolas day, we hurry to the Vasilievka market at the foot of the church. We buy a lot of chocolates by handfuls for children. Here, it is now mainly the locals who do their shopping. ” Before, there were many people, but now very few “says a resident wrapped in a long scarf and a cap that goes down to the eyes. Off-microphone, she adds “otherwise there are those”. These are the soldiers in uniform whom she points with her chin. They patrol the village or man the roadblocks on the roads in the region.
At 73, she has seen her circle of family and friends shrink to its simplest expression: “ My closest friends stayed, but not the children or the rest of the family. The nephews, their parents, they are all gone. A grandson in western Ukraine, a granddaughter abroad, the others in the city of Zaporija. I can’t go see them, so I go for a walk along the river, dial a number, and see if I can catch the Ukrainian network. I can’t run all the time, and I can’t drive anymore, so I do this once a day, after work. In two days, it’s my grandson’s birthday. He will be 6 years old. The other day he said to me: “My darling grandma, please tell her mean men to let you come with us. Tell them you have a grandson, tell them it’s my birthday.” Every time I talk to her, I cry, it hurts me so much “. His voice breaks. She lets out tears for a few seconds before adding: “ Everything is bad, but it’s not like we’re in the middle of the fight all the time here. So we wait and we hope that it will eventually get better. »
►Also read: Report – Life is getting organized in the territories annexed by Russia on the south bank of the Dnieper
Zaporizhia region: closure of the only crossing point between territories annexed by Russia and Ukraine