A few miles inside Russia’s border with Ukraine, in this market, the sounds of battle have become commonplace. In the distance, I can hear explosions. Nobody flinches, though.
Other stalls are now little more than twisted metal a few metres distant. A few days prior, a mortar struck them.
No one was harmed because the market was closed at the time. There are, however, still a large number of empty stalls and few clients. Some of the structures’ exteriors have stacks of sandbags.
This fight feels like a televised war being fought distant from home in many regions of Russia. However, in the Belgorod region of Russia, conflict seems imminent and very serious.
Raisa Alexandrovna, a vendor of sweets here, no longer feels secure.
Nobody is defending us, Raisa says to me. “People don’t know if they’ll still be in one piece in the morning when they go home at night.”
Everyone I talk to in the market claims to always be concerned about Ukrainian shelling. However, they fail to acknowledge that their nation invaded Ukraine.
They attest that things were calm and pleasant here a year ago. But they choose not to connect the dots and assign responsibility for what happened to the Kremlin.
Raisa says, “We had to initiate this military action. “The correct thing to do. Simply put, we ought to have been more ready for it. We ought to have started the army draught immediately away. We are losing so many of our young men. No one will be left for our women to wed.”
What about the Ukrainians who have died as a result of Russia’s invasion, though? I ask.
Yes, there have been fatalities on both sides, Raisa says. “However, Ukrainians’ opinions have been changed. There, a new generation has emerged that despises Russians. They need to be re-educated. Make them over.”
The metropolis of the region, Belgorod, has constructed a huge letter “Z” along a popular highway as a representation of Russia’s military action. Belgorod has also had explosions recently, including ones at the airport, an oil storage, and what appeared to be a strike on a power station. Residents are suddenly forced to consider where to seek cover. In the cellars and basements of apartment buildings, shelters have been opened.