: AFP: Rusty boat maintains a lifeline in war-torn Ukraine

13:45 Jul. 6, 2016

AFP: Rusty boat maintains a lifeline in war-torn Ukraine

Ukrainian sodier near Siverskyi Donets river, Luhansk region. (Photo UNIAN)

"Before the war, there was a ferry and a pedestrian bridge across the river, but that bridge was destroyed by the fighting" 

A rusty boat crossing a calm river in separatist east Ukraine is all that enables hundreds of people living in militant-held territory to pick up pensions and vital supplies from the government side.

The illegal operation across the 50-metre (165-foot) wide Siverskyi Donets is run by a boatsman who charges pocket change from the 500 people who travel back and forth each month while battled-hardened fighters watch.

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He operates the boat - made of metal with room for two or three people - by pulling his old vessel by hand with the help of a rope attached to each side of the shore.

The lazy stream is part of an informal border splitting the pro-Russian separatist regions of Lugansk and Donetsk from the rest of the Western-backed former Soviet republic.

There are only five legal crossing points along the 500-kilometre (310-mile) line of contact between the well-fortified forces.

The limit is aimed at keeping insurgents from infiltrating Kyiv-controlled regions and spreading a 26-month conflict that has claimed more than 9,400 lives and driven another two million from their homes.

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But even those few openings along the heavily-mined front are often closed because of shelling from heavy weapons that were due to have been withdrawn under the terms of a tattered peace deal signed in February 2015.

It has left people no choice but to use this relatively peaceful spot of the Lugansk region to pick up essentials like medicine and government handouts.

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