With Russian forces massing on Ukraine’s border, it’s increasingly likely that invasion is imminent.
And the Ukrainian city of Avdiyivka is directly in the firing line for what some experts could see as the opening battle of World War Three.
The city is in a contested region just two miles from the frontline between opposing forces and would likely be the first point of contact between Russian and Ukrainian forces.
It was occupied by Russian troops before they were driven out of Ukrainian territory in 2014. It’s still encircled by minefields and locals are used to regular artillery bombardments from Russian separatist forces.
The people of Avdiyivka have learned to be calm under fire, with teachers learning combat medic skills as standard.
One staff member from an Avdiyivka school told The Sun: "We carry on teaching under fire – we stay calm so the pupils will follow our lead."
Maya Zaytseva, 56, added: "But if the shells come to close we ask them to line up and walk to a shelter point away from windows.
"It is awful to see children covering their ears from the terrible noise of the explosions but it is a situation we have learned to live with.
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"This is our life now and we are dealing with it."
In early February 2017, the city was at the centre of a pitched battle between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in which at least 14 civilians were killed, and a further five injured.
UNICEF warned of a humanitarian disaster in the city at that time, due to a lack of electricity and water.
WW3 will start with 'cyber Pearl Harbor' and end in 'catastrophic defeat' for US
Vladimir Putin’s dream of reclaiming the territory that once belonged to the USSR is almost certainly sure to end in military conflict, and with US forces sworn to support Ukraine, a superpower standoff seems almost inevitable.
Putin has demanded an end to all NATO activity in Ukraine and across eastern Europe.
A widespread conflict across Europe would almost inevitably follow a full invasion of Ukraine by Russia, warns Yuliia Laputina, the Ukrainian minister for veterans affairs.
She explicitly described a war between Russia and Ukraine as a potential flashpoint for a third World War.
"If Russia will invade you know, you should also take care about the Balkans," she said.
"What Russians are doing now in Serbia – they try to provoke a situation in the Balkans.
"But we also take into account [the beginning of] World War Three."
When asked directly if a Russian invasion could lead to a new world war, Laputina said: "Yeah…because geopolitically, it looks like this is a possible scenario. So… we should pay attention to the Ukrainian issue because of the security of the continent."
The Veterans Minister said that she would be able to call on massive manpower in the event of a ground war.
She said that there were in the region of 400,000 combat veterans between the ages of 20 and 60 that would be would be willing to fight if needed.
The minister added that Russia would regret trying to invade and that Ukraine would mount an effective resistance.
"I think that it will be successful because even in the case of a real military invasion, the first step … may be successful for aggressors," she said.
"But the next step will not be successful because we have a very big experience of national resistance."
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