Officials in the Russian-backed separatist areas of eastern Ukraine have taken it upon themselves to force men as young as 60 into their militias.
It is reported by several close Sky News contacts that the men are being kidnapped from cars heading to the border Russiaon the streets of Luhansk (a big city) in broad daylight and in bars in the city of Donetsk late at night.
Armed men visit companies and ask for lists of male employees. And we’re told they’re also asking for details on any vehicles the companies may own.
Our contacts, whom we do not name for their own safety, are clearly distraught and have painted a picture of growing fear and distress.
They say that she and her friends are now effectively living in hiding.
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“I’m keeping a low profile, Stuart,” my longtime friend told me during an ongoing exchange.
“They are forcing those who were already in the army or having fun in the evenings or trying to flee to Russia,” he said.
“It still feels pretty safe here (Donetsk) to move around during the day, although in Luhansk they catch men on the street during the day. Maybe we’ll have the same thing soon.”
All men over the age of 18 receive “military summonses” to visit recruiting stations – others receive “urgent phone calls” urging them to attend as well.
“Officially it’s 18-55 years old, but now they’ve extended it to 60,” confirmed a local resident.
We were sent a picture of one of those “military subpoenas” that a man received through his mailbox.
The image published here has been cropped and some information redacted to protect the identity of our source. Sky News has seen and verified the original image.
We were also sent video purporting to show military police known as “VAI” standing outside a large shopping center in Donetsk, apparently stopping and questioning men before taking them away with paperwork in hand. Sky News has not been able to independently verify the footage.
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Another contact inside the city of Donetsk told us: “Once they arrive at the recruitment station, they are transferred to the barracks, sometimes without medical examinations.
“That’s why most of the men hide in their houses, you can’t see the men on the street,” he said.
It comes after Denis Pushilin, the leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), ordered a mass evacuation of hundreds of thousands of women and children and the elderly to Russia.
It is widely reported that these buses full of evacuees are now stranded in freezing conditions along the border with little assistance or medical attention.
Western analysts believe this is a concerted effort to create a pretext for an invasion – by creating a humanitarian emergency.
The DPR warns of this Ukraine Plans for an invasion, but neither Sky News, which reports from the western side of the demarcation line, nor other independent media on the eastern side have seen any indication of invading movements from Ukraine.
While both sides have stepped up their cross-border firefights in recent days, there is no indication that the static lines separating them have shifted or been breached.
Multiple contacts in Russia-backed separatist areas say there is a looming sense of panic among people who now feel trapped by local authorities and fear they will be drawn into the war sparked by a Russian invasion , if such a thing occurs.
It seems everyone we know is saying the same thing – my friend pretty much summed them up.
“It’s surreal. You understand that you are in the middle of a false republic and a war that makes no sense to normal people who feel like cannon fodder for this war, a war that threatens you, your family, your property and your plans for the future and it is a tool in a grand political game,” he wrote.
“It’s so scary, they didn’t give us a chance to escape this place and the escalation of fighting is imminent.”
“I hope this is just a high stakes game between Russia and the US and it could end in a minute and I can finally go out and have a beer with you.”
I told him I’m buying.