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For the women, children, and others who are being evacuated, the result is undeniably real and traumatic, as they arrive by the hundreds in a neighbouring region that appears unprepared for the tide of evacuees.

In the early chaos of that effort, some said they felt like pawns in a larger game.

“Maybe they’ll shoot and then it will quiet down,” said Viktoria from Donetsk, who was also at the tent camp on the border. “I think it’s a farce, though. Like when there’s a fuss and then that’s all … a staged event.”

More than 300 evacuees were sent to the Krasny Desant sanatorium just 20 miles from the border. Inside, children ran through the hallways as their parents filled out intake forms and received small handouts such as sim cards. The grounds were patrolled by police, including at least one officer with an automatic rifle (they forced a Guardian correspondent to leave the sanatorium).

In a nearby church, Natalia Chetveryakova, 61, said the seaside camp had housed evacuees in 2014 when the war began in eastern Ukraine and had even hosted refugees in 2008 after the Georgian war.

Some said they were happy to be placed so close to the border and were thankful for the stipend of 10,000 roubles (£95) that the Russian government has promised to give to evacuees. Others expected better conditions.

Beckoning us into her room, where she was staying with her daughter and granddaughter, Sonya, seven, Lyudmila Barskaya showed off the spartan but liveable conditions with an air of resign. “Here are the beds, and that’s all there is,” she said. “All you can do is cry. I understand that it’s like this for us. But nothing more for the children?”

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