A week ago, pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine pulled out of Slovyansk, and government troops took over the city.
As the army moves its fighting further east towards Donetsk and Luhansk, the government has sent in a battalion called “Kyiv-1” to take over. It’s made up of former protesters from the capital city’s Maidan demonstrations which saw former president Viktor Yanukovych overthrown in February.
Yuriy Cheban is a farmer from western Ukraine who joined up and takes part in night patrols.
“I’ve never served in the army, never worked in police. But there came a moment when I had to make that choice. I don’t know, maybe it a patriotic spirit or something. But someone had to go and do that kind of work,” Cheban explains.
Cheban and his colleagues now work alongside the former Berkut riot police who would have been on the other side of the barricades during the Maidan protests.
“We haven’t been asked much here about Maydan, we don’t talk much about it even with Berkut the former riot police. We actually live with them in the same dormitory and we’ve been working together, clearing the streets of neighboring Nikolaevka,” he says.
There is still little electricity after several months of fighting. At night, thieves often try and take advantage of the dark to steal anything they can find.
One woman reports that thieves are trying to walk off with trolleybus lines, which were damaged and left on the ground after shelling. She says here company was also targeted:
“Thieves are taking away cables, everything possible. Our car service was completely robbed. There’s no light, no security. Its dangerous even with a guard or a watchman, he might be killed”
It’s not clear what everyone makes of having this battalion from Kyiv in their city. Many will have supported the pro-Russian separatists.
But all will be hoping for some kind of return to normality and to feel safe on their own streets again.