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Portraits of Conflict: Ukrainians Speak Out  

By Joseph Sywenkyj - 2014-04-16T14:38:40Z

Photograph by Joseph Sywenkyj for

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A City in Torment

Donetsk is torn. You can hear it in the people's voices and see it in their eyes. The city in eastern Ukraine is near Russia, which has massed troops on the border as pro-Kremlin protesters -- some say provocateurs -- hold government buildings here. The protesters are demanding more autonomy from Kiev, or "help" from Russia. Violence has flared, and Ukraine has mounted what it calls an anti-terrorist operation. Russian President Vladimir Putin warns he will protect ethnic Russians as he did in Crimea, where the U.S. says such claims were the pretext for invasion.

Donetsk has strong ties to Russia. About 38 percent of the broader region's 4.8 million people identified themselves as ethnic Russians in a 2001 census, the latest available. Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine, is a native of Donetsk, and much of his support came from the region. He turned away from a free-trade pact with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Moscow and was ousted by a protest movement called the Euro Maidan. New voting is set for May.

But the people of Donetsk have a wide range of opinions on what is happening in their city and on the future of their country. These photographs were taken on April 11 and 12, just before serious violence broke out.