As for many Ukrainians, her current life is full of painful contradictions: she loves Russia but no longer speaks to her Muscovite relatives. The latter refuse to believe that the Kremlin launched a bloody invasion of Ukraine, which ravaged the locality where she lives, Barvinkové, a hundred kilometers west of Severodonetsk.

At 71, she and a few rare neighbors who remained there despite the surrounding fighting, are from a generation full of nostalgia for the calm and orderly life they led in the Soviet era.

In its neighborhood almost emptied of its inhabitants, the streets are patrolled by tense Ukrainian soldiers: in this region of Donbass, they know that many lean towards Russia.

Barvinkové is at the crossroads of two regions: that of Kharkiv where the Ukrainians have regained ground against the Russians, and that of Severodonetsk, a key agglomeration of the Donbass which the forces of Moscow now control “70%”, according to regional governor Serguiï Gaidai.

“I try to continue living,” says Valentina Pryss, without stopping to garden. “For us, this war is temporary, life is eternal”.

– Destruction more than breakthrough –

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, launched 100 days ago, on February 24, turned into a war of attrition: few breakthroughs on the ground, but much destruction.

Unexpected Ukrainian resistance at the start of the invasion and Russian logistical and tactical errors forced Moscow’s forces to reduce their ambitions and refocus their offensive on taking Donbass, an industrial region in the east of the country, already hit hard. whipped by deindustrialization.

After weeks of shelling, Severodonetsk finally seems close to falling into Russian hands. Some 12,000 civilians would be trapped there without any humanitarian aid being able to arrive, indicated Tuesday the NGO Norwegian Refugee Council which had its Ukrainian headquarters there until recently.

The nearby town of Lyssytchansk, separated from Severodonetsk by the Donets River, resists, even if the Russians try to encircle it.

If they succeed, the Severodonetsk-Lyssychansk agglomeration could serve as a springboard to link up with Russian forces further west, and possibly launch an offensive on the Ukrainian regional administrative capital of Kramatorsk, according to reports. analysts.

– Time plays for kyiv? –

Faced with Russian shelling, the Ukrainian soldiers on the front have the same dream: to have high-precision and long-range weapons to hit the forces of Moscow from a good distance.

“When you know there are heavy weapons behind you, everyone’s morale goes up,” said a soldier who only gives his nom de guerre “Luzhnii”. “Otherwise, you stay in the trenches scanning the horizon”.

If Washington refuses to deliver ultra-long-range weapons that would allow the Ukrainians to reach Russia, US President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that Washington would deliver them “more advanced” systems that “will allow them to hit key targets more precisely on the battlefield in Ukraine”.

According to a senior White House official, it is Himars (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System), multiple rocket launchers mounted on light armor, with a range of about 80 kilometers, which would already represent a significant reinforcement Ukrainian capabilities.

While some of these systems may require a month of training, “at this point our guys are ready to fire anything, after playing with them for a fortnight,” another soldier told AFP, ” Moder” by his nom de guerre.

The slow progress of the Russians in the Donbass and the expected delivery of more powerful Western weapons have analysts saying that time could be on the side of kyiv.

“Ukraine can afford to lose a little ground for the moment in the Donbass, without this having serious strategic consequences,” said Rob Lee, an analyst at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “But it is essential that his forces do not find themselves surrounded.”

– “We are in the dark” –

Evguen Onychchenko does not feel like he has time for himself.

From his apartment without electricity, on the ground floor of a building in Lyssytchansk, he can only wonder which army controls his street.

“We don’t know anything,” he said, before accepting a bowl of soup prepared by one of his neighbors on a brazier in the courtyard of the building.

More and more shells fired from the vicinity of Severodonetsk are falling on Lysytchansk, and the danger increases day by day.

“We see cars passing with Ukrainian flags, so we assume that we are still part of Ukraine,” said the plumber. “But for the rest, we are in the dark”.