Fearing attack, Russian-backed rebels dig trenches in Ukraine

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YASYNUVATA: In the mid-day heat, a dozen volunteers are spading dry soil in the pro-Russian separatist east of Ukraine, digging a new line of trenches aimed at keeping out Kiev’s tanks.
“We are preparing reserve positions in the event of a possible offensive by Kiev,” says Oleg, a 49-year-old unemployed man.

The trench-digging project was launched a month ago by a separatist battalion called Vostok, or east.

In front of Oleg stretch several hundred metres of trenches, equipped with three shelters made of tree trunks. All were dug by Oleg and his fellow separatist supporters.

Calling themselves “volunteers”, a group of 20 or 30 gather at weekends near a cemetery on the outskirts of Yasynuvata, a small town near the rebels’ de facto capital Donetsk and just three kilometres (two miles) from the front line.

“The enemy is just behind that hill,” says Andrei, a 50-year-old bearded fighter in camouflage from the Vostok battalion.

“What do you think, how long would it take for

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