* Those left in village caught in crossfire for weeks
* Stockpile staples, watch fighting at night
* Many houses deserted, stray dogs roam the streets
By Aleksandar Vasovic
SPARTAK, Ukraine, July 27 With no electricity to
power televisions, residents of the Ukrainian village of Spartak
look to the skies where every night they watch what they call a
concert of "fireworks".
The fireworks are in fact flares, tracerfire and shells
which regularly strike this village just 5 km (miles) from the
airport in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk near where Ukrainian
forces and pro-Russian rebels have been fighting for weeks.
Many have already fled, leaving behind a mixture of the
elderly and the proud, those reluctant to leave a village that
they fear will be ransacked if either side wins.
Sasha, a 36-year-old taxi driver, took his wife and two
children to Berdyansk, a government-held town on the Azov Sea in
southern Ukraine where he rented a small apartment for them.
"I've told them - stay at the seaside ... it is pleasant
there, stay a month or two, it should all be over by then," he
said at his house in Spartak on Saturday, just as a salvo from a
multiple rocket launcher crashed about a kilometre away.
Sasha, who like all those interviewed in Spartak declined to
give his surname for fear of reprisals, said he had become quite
used to living with the crossfire and a curfew that bans them
from moving around from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Several stray shells have hit houses or landed in gardens in
Spartak, wounding at least two people. Two others were killed
earlier in shootouts around the medium-sized village on the
outskirts of Donetsk, some 15 km north from the city centre.
Pavel, a tractor operator in his late 50s, said the
villagers could now tell the difference between a multiple
rocket launcher, a howitzer, a mortar, and between assault
rifles and machine guns. Sometimes they sit outside and have
barbecues while the night sky is lit up with the fighting.
"The problem is when it happens during the day, when people
are out working. Yesterday me and a colleague were sitting on an
open road, shelling was going on and we were thinking - how on
earth do we return home from here?" Pavel said.
Most have stockpiled staples, storing flour, cooking oil and
canned food after some refrigerators stopped working when the
electricity went off. Some better off have petrol-driven power
generators to keep their refrigerators going.
"All my food in the deep freezer spoiled after three days so
I had to throw it away. I realised I needed something that could
last and bought some canned food and flour," said a pensioner
who gave her name as Varvara.
"The good thing is that all the young people, son, daughter
in law, kids, have left so I won't need much."
For Sasha, he shares his food with his own dogs and five
strays, part of an increasing number of pets abandoned by their
owners as they flee the fighting.
"It is better to feed them than to allow them to go wild and
start biting people," he said.
(Editing by Gabriela Baczynska, Elizabeth Piper and Anna