On the front lines, Ukrainians brace for possible attack

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CNN-About 500 yards away from Russian-backed separatists, a group of Ukrainian soldiers waits for a fight it’s sure is coming.

And the men are strangely relaxed about it all, according to photographer Timothy Fadek, who spent time with the soldiers Friday on the front lines in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region.

“They have embraced the inevitability,” Fadek said. “I was talking to one of the soldiers and he said: ‘It’s inevitable. We’ve accepted this inevitability of an attack.’ And then there was a little bit of an argument between two soldiers. One said, ‘The Russians will not come across the border, they will attack from the sea,’ meaning the Sea of Azov. Another soldier disagreed with both those assessments and said, ‘No, the attack will come from Belarus.’ ”

But while they might not agree with where an attack will come from, they are all 100% convinced it is going to happen.

Ukrainian soldiers sit in the back of a truck in Slov’yanoserbs’k. (Timothy Fadek/Redux for CNN)

“They’ve resigned themselves,” Fadek said. “But they’re extremely relaxed. There is not a hint of nervousness in their faces. They’re ready to fight. They’ve been ready for many years now. They don’t want to. I asked them, ‘Do you want this war?’ And they’re like, ‘Of course not.’ ”

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia are at their highest in years, with a Russian troop buildup near the border spurring fears that Moscow could soon launch an invasion. The Kremlin has denied it is planning to attack, arguing that NATO support for Ukraine constitutes a growing threat on Russia’s western flank.

In Muratova, a Ukrainian town about a 20-minute drive from the front lines, people are much more nervous than the soldiers, Fadek said. But they, too, seem to be resigned to their fate.

When asked what he thinks about the possibility of an attack, one farmer shrugged his shoulders.

“It will happen,” he said, “but there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.”

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