By Jeyhun Aliyev
KOSTIANTYNIVKA, Ukraine (AA) - Local tradespeople in Kostiantynivka, a former industrial city in conflict-torn eastern Ukraine, voiced their hopes for peace and stabilization amid fears of military action by Russia, which has thousands of troops amassed at the country’s border.
Kostiantynivka, with a population of around 75,000, in the Donetsk Oblast, was captured by pro-Russian separatists for a time in 2014 but was later recaptured by Ukrainian government forces.
Irina Bodraya, a 21-year-old student who also works in a cellphone service provider shop, told Anadolu Agency that Kostiantynivka is not a frontline city but mainly a "grey zone" one, an intermediate area between two opposing positions.
"We don’t hear explosions, we hear them very rarely from the nearest towns. Life here is more or less stable compared to the frontline (towns)," she said.
For residents of Kostiantynivka, before 2014 the city of Donetsk was a hub for businesses and education, she said, but with its occupation, that role shifted to Kharkiv to the northeast.
Bodraya said the conflict, which started around eight years ago in eastern Ukraine, "drastically" changed her plans at a time when she was dreaming of attending university in Donetsk but then “there was no point."
"I have expectations that the whole situation will get better, so that people can live quietly and calmly where they are used to living, that is, either there or here. (I want) to have some kind of unambiguity, confidence, stability," she said.
- 'Better future than ours'
Andry Sliusar, 32, who was born and raised in Kostiantynivka and now works in a bakery, said that over the past years, "many things changed" in the city, adding that the conflict since 2014 hurt it economically, especially in terms of salaries and workplaces.
"At the moment, we’re trying to survive here," he said, adding he would like to give his child a good education, a better life, and a "better future than ours."
Sliusar said he hopes everything returns to normal in the city so that people won't need to move to other places for a better livelihood.
Lena Suknenko, who also works at the bakery, said she wants "the war to end as soon as possible" as it makes it impossible for her to meet with her sister and nephews living in Donetsk.
"(Our) family has almost collapsed. We can only contact (them) via telephone. I hope everything ends as soon as possible and that everything returns to normal, as it was before," she said.
- 'War divided brothers and sisters'
Janna Eromina, 52, who sells flowers in Kostiantynivka, said "the war divided brothers and sisters from each other."
Telling how before the conflict, they were just an hour away from their relatives in Donetsk, Eromina said now they have almost no means to do so.
"I want peace. I want all countries to be friends," she said.
"I want sense and goodness to prevail over all this.”
Noting how the specter of war hurt the city’s economy, pastry seller Yana, 56, said she wants peace in the region, adding that the tense environment affects people's psychology, "making it difficult to live."
"Of course before the war, the situation was calmer. There were workplaces. There were more people (in the city). The war forced many to leave," she said.
Russia recently amassed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s eastern border, prompting fears that the Kremlin could be planning another military offensive against its former Soviet neighbor.
Moscow has denied that it is preparing to invade and said its troops are there for exercises. It has instead issued a list of security demands, including that Ukraine not join NATO.