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Hundreds of Ukrainians endure freezing conditions at Belgorod region border crossing

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Hundreds of Ukrainians are currently suffering freezing conditions at the border crossing in the Belgorod Region. The lines at the Kolotilovka checkpoint have formed after the border guards’ working hours had been reduced, as The Insider reported on October 10.

The Kolotilovka checkpoint serves as the sole remaining direct passage from Russia to Ukraine. The long lines began to form after the working hours at the checkpoint were shortened by an hour because of the earlier darkness. Further delays were caused by the exchange of prisoners of war and soldiers' bodies. By the morning of October 7, the queue included about 250 individuals, as volunteer Nadine Geisler told The Insider.

The majority of those attempting to cross the border are elderly and disabled persons, women, and children. They are coming from Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhya, trying to escape the pressures imposed on those who refuse to accept Russian citizenship.

People are waiting for days to get access to the border crossing. Despite the cold, many sleep outdoors because they cannot afford hostels or out of fear of losing their place in the line. Volunteers assist in taking people to shelters and providing meals. After crossing the border, the travelers have to walk a few more miles to the Ukrainian checkpoint. Some abandon their luggage because of exhaustion; occasionally, they get exposed to gunfire.

Volunteers have asked the Belgorod authorities to provide refugees with heated tents and hot beverages and recruit additional personnel at the border checkpoints. The authorities reacted by criticizing volunteers for helping those rejecting Russian citizenship. 

The conditions at the Kolotilovka checkpoint were almost equally harsh during the summer months. In June, the “Pepel” TV channel reported that dozens of Ukrainians stayed in the scorching sun while waiting at the checkpoint. There were no shelters or benches near the border crossing, and refugees were deprived of access to drinking water. The recently installed restroom facilities lacked doors.

By the end of September 2022, similar long lines had formed at border checkpoints in the Pskov region. Refugees trying to leave Russia stayed in line for several days or even weeks. They slept in makeshift tents and had to purchase hot water at nearby gas stations. Pskov volunteers provided them with essential supplies, including food, water, and household items.


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