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Donetsk rebels prepare for gov’t attacks

Reporter: Kate Parkinson 丨 CCTV.com

08-18-2014 09:34 BJT

Fighting has raged in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, despite a request from the anti-government forces there for a cease-fire to prevent a "humanitarian catastrophe." At least 300 thousand of Donetsk’s one million residents have fled as violence escalates.

CCTV reporter Kate Parkinson at Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

CCTV reporter Kate Parkinson at Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.

Still smoldering, these houses on the outskirts of Donetsk have been hit by artillery shells, as Kiev’s forces move on one of the last remaining rebel strongholds.

Increasingly besieged, Kiev says the rebels are in disarray.

In the past weeks, three senior rebel leaders -- including the top military commander in Donetsk, the Russian, Igor Strelkov -- have been removed from their posts.

But a rebel commander says morale is still strong.

"It absolutely doesn’t change anything. We built relations with Strelkov now we will build relations with his successor. It is not Strelkov who fights, not Khodakovskiy who fights, not the other leaders who fight ... but the militia who fights. The soldiers fight they are more ideologically motivated and they fight not because of they are ordered to, but because of their own decision and conscious choice," Vostok Battalion commander Alexander Khodakovsky said.

Ukrainian officials are painting a picture of a separatist force that is on the run and starting to panic. But the rebel fighters here appear to be standing firm.

This is a shooting range on the edge of Donetsk. It’s where they train their fighters and they say they have new recruits signing up all the time and this is where they are training them to fighting the Ukrainian forces. The same forces we can hear shelling not too far away.

The prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic says 1,200 fighters -- trained in Russia -- are on their way and that the rebels are planning a major counter-offensive.

Despite daily shelling and the expectation that the fighting will escalate further the rebels say they still have the support of local civilians.

"The local population is still happy with us. Of course, there are some people who are just tired, others who are just scared. But still the population gives us strong support, because we are the population. With every shelling men are waking up and taking weapons and standing up to protect their motherland," Oplot Battalion squad leader Oleg said.

But with Ukrainian forces advancing, and civilian deaths mounting, that level of support could change.

CCTV reporter Kate Parkinson talks with ostok Battalion commander Alexander Khodakovsky.

CCTV reporter Kate Parkinson talks with ostok Battalion commander Alexander Khodakovsky.

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