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Evacuations from Donetsk leave some behind

One of them is Marina, who did not want her last name revealed out of fear for her safety.

She decided to stay in her hometown of Kramatorsk, about 10 miles from the front lines, although she could afford to flee to Kyiv or even western Ukraine, away from active fighting.

She said the prospect of having to collect rainwater for drinking or use wood for heating did not scare her or others who are “guided by hope”.

She is also hesitant to sign the form. “First of all, I’m going to sit down and read it carefully,” Marina, 60, said on the phone from Kramatorsk, where she’s lived all her life.

“I believe in God and I believe in the Ukrainian army,” she added. “It’s my destiny.”

Ukraine is eager to get people out of the area to minimize civilian casualties and give it more operational freedom, analysts said.

Kyiv intends to mount a fierce defense of the key towns of Slaviansk and Kramatorsk, said Michael Clarke, professor of war studies at King’s College London.

The Ukrainian army is hoping for a strategic victory in the Russian-occupied south, Clarke said, where it should mount a counteroffensive. For any success there to have political impact, Clarke said, he must not lose the rest of Donbass.

Logistically, the evacuations give Ukrainians more leeway to defend or leave a city without having to consider civilians, said Le Beck consultancy intelligence chief Michael A. Horowitz, a geopolitical and security analyst.

“The Ukrainians have also been asking people to evacuate from the very beginning, and the presence of civilians has made the work of the Ukrainian military much more difficult,” Horowitz said.

“So Zelensky’s order may just be an escalation of efforts to expel civilians from what has become the main combat zone,” Horowitz said.

Human rights group Amnesty International said in a much-criticized report on Thursday that Ukrainian forces have at times exposed civilians to Russian attacks by basing themselves in schools, apartment buildings and other locations in populated areas.

Zelenskyy denounced the report, as did other officials in Kyiv and allies on social media.

Amnesty said in a statement that it had made it clear that “the Ukrainian military practices we have described in no way justify Russia’s systematic violations of international humanitarian law.”

“When we see violations of international humanitarian law, as we did in this case, we report them fairly and accurately. Ignoring violations by a favored party would not constitute meaningful human rights reporting,” he said.

Oleksandr Ivanov, a volunteer who works for a local relief organization helping with evacuations, told NBC News people want to stay for a variety of reasons.

“A lot of people can’t leave their elderly parents,” Ivanov said. “For the elderly, it is psychologically difficult to leave. And of course, there are people who believe that until a shell hits their house, they won’t leave.


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