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In eastern Ukraine, war-weary soldiers and civilians await Russia's next move


The front lines of Eastern Ukraine are snow-laden and the big guns are largely silent. But snipers are bedded into this winter white wasteland. Ukrainian troops who forget to stay low in their World War One-style trenches risk a bullet to the head.


The conflict here has been frozen in place since 2014, when separatists, backed by Moscow, seized parts of the Donbas region. At least 13,000 people have been killed, both combatants and civilians. Now Western leaders are warning of something much worse - a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. If it comes, the eastern front would be an easy place to start, with the pro-Russian rebels here paving the way.


Maria was trying not to stress about all that. The 26-year-old Ukrainian soldier, talkative and slight, was in her trench, armed with a Kalashnikov and a perfect manicure. She's part of Ukraine's 56th infantry brigade. (The army asked us to stick to her first name, to prevent trolling on social media.)


"I try to avoid politics and not to watch TV, I try not to get too worried," Maria said. "But we are ready. We have had a lot of training. I understand that it won't be like a training exercise, it will be hard for everyone. But our morale is high and we are standing our ground."

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