ILOVAISK, Ukraine (Reuters) – On a clear afternoon in eastern Ukraine this autumn, Svetlana Sidorenko, 54, clutched her mouth and wept as men slowly unearthed the remains of her husband by a road five years after he was killed fighting for pro-Russian separatists.
Far beneath the high politics as Russia and Ukraine prepare for talks that seem unlikely to turn a corner in the conflict between Kiev and separatists, Sidorenko and other residents of the provincial town of Ilovaisk are hoping for a breakthrough.
“Everyone is waiting, hoping they’ll come together and agree, that one wonderful day this war will be over and that we’ll live in peace and agreement without fear,” she said ahead of the talks in Paris on Monday.
Over 13,000 people have been killed in the more than five-year-old conflict. There has been little sign of a peaceful solution despite a ceasefire agreement signed in February 2015 in Minsk.
Kiev accuses Moscow of waging an undeclared war in eastern Ukraine, supplying troops and heavy weapons to the Donbass region. Russia denies that and calls it a civil war.
Sidorenko’s husband Konstantin Zinchik took up arms against Kiev government forces, fighting for the pro-Russian self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic. He was killed at the time of the Battle of Ilovaisk in August 2014.
Hundreds of Ukrainian troops were killed and more than 100 captured when Kiev’s forces were surrounded and pounded with artillery fire. A ceasefire afterwards allowed a Ukrainian volunteer group, the Black Tulip, to collect the remains of Ukraine’s casualties in the war.
On the rebel side, Sidorenko learned of her husband’s death at the time, but did not know where his body was. It was only this year that a rebel group affiliated with the DNR learned of the location of his body and exhumed it along with three other rebel fighters.
(Reporting by Reuters TV; Editing by Mark Heinrich)