Separatists doubt Kiev will control 'their' Russian border
The separatist guard at a crossing point between Ukraine and Russia poured scorn on Kiev regaining control despite a new peace deal. "I don't think so, we'll stay right here," he said.
The pro-Russian rebels control around 400 kilometres (250 miles) of Ukraine's border with Russia, and Kiev resuming control was one of the toughest negotiating points at Thursday's Minsk summit that resulted in a peace roadmap for eastern Ukraine.
"The plan clearly says that Kiev regains control of the border by the end of the year, but in agreement with the local authorities, meaning us. Which means nothing is going to change," said the 43-year-old guard, who gave his name as Vasily.
"I have relatives in Ukraine. They'd have problems," he added.
- 'Minsk deal has no future' -
The fragile peace deal stipulates that Kiev should take control of the border "throughout the conflict area" after a comprehensive political settlement including local elections.
The village of Uspenka still bears the scars of fighting from when rebels took control in August.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of pouring tanks, soldiers and other heavy weaponry into Ukraine to support the separatists, something Moscow denies.
In Uspenka, which has a population of around 1,200, mayor Alexandr Denisov said some people were afraid after hearing of the Minsk accord.
"Several villagers called me. They were worried after hearing that Ukraine would resume border controls," said Denisov.
"I reassured them and told them nothing would change. The Minsk agreement has no future. It would be naive to expect peace or even a real ceasefire," he said.
The hundreds of people queuing for hours in coaches and cars to cross the border into Russia appeared to share his scepticism.
- Thousands fleeing to Russia -
"Recently there's been 2,000-4,000 people crossing every day. They come from the places that are currently seeing the heaviest fighting -- Debaltseve, Gorlivka and Donetsk," Vasily said.
Svetlana, 27, has had enough of talking about the Minsk deal, peace or the ceasefire that is supposed to come into effect at 2200 GMT Saturday, midnight local time.
She's just abandoned her home near Donetsk airport, an epicentre of fighting since the beginning of the conflict 10 months ago.
"I don't believe in anything anymore," she said. "After every ceasefire, there's more shelling than usual."
Vasily seems certain that he will stay in control of this border crossing, and Ukraine's uncertain future means Kiev authorities won't be coming back.
"The end of the year is far away and no one knows if the ceasefire will last longer than a week or how long the peace deal will last," he said.
"We'd like to believe in peace, but it's difficult."
© 2015 AFP