In Kostyantynivka, opinion is divided over Russia’s war in Ukraine

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Russia has been pounding the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine with relentless artillery and air raids, making slow but steady progress to seize the industrial heartland of its neighbour.

But in Kostyantynivka — a city in Donetsk — opinion is divided over Russia’s invasion. 

The city’s once-bustling metallurgical industry ground to a halt with the fall of the Soviet Union and in some parts nostalgia for the USSR runs deep.

“The Ukrainian government has forgotten us for thirty years, since independence,” said a mechanic named Sergei. 

He added that only five factories remained of the 20 which were operating in Soviet times.

“We lived well under the Soviet Union, our parents had jobs,” added another resident.

Their neighbourhood has been without running water for a month, forcing residents to tap each other’s wells.

On the other side of town, however, Ukrainian flags fly high. Residents there reject what they see as Soviet totalitarianism, and say they don’t understand their neighbours who want to roll out the welcome mat for Moscow.

After a school was destroyed in a recent Russian attack, a group of former miners gathered to clear the rubble.

“They are not normal, these people who say that the Russians will bring us peace,” said one of the men. “They have never lived in Russia. I know, I worked there for years.”

While they may disagree on which direction their region should be heading in, both camps put their differences aside every Sunday, when they sit in pews on opposite sides of their Orthodox church.

The priest in Kostyantynivka has made his position clear, changing out of his golden robes after his service and into military green in support of Ukrainian soldiers. 

Father Vitalii Kester says there is only one path to the future.

“Those who grew up with this mentality expect us to take care of them and think only of the present,” he says. “The Ukrainians who look to Europe think of the future, the country they want to leave to their children.”