MOSCOW—Olga Volkova, the director of orphanage #1 in Ukraine’s breakaway republic of Donetsk, is in the middle of one of the darkest, most difficult nights of her life.
After Denis Pushilin, the pro-Russian leader of the separatist territory, declared a mass evacuation of women and children in the region at 4 p.m. local time on Friday, the director and her team were given just two hours to pack up the belongings of some 225 orphans and put them on ten buses headed to the Russian region of Rostov.
Five hours later, an exhausted and emotional Volkova spoke with The Daily Beast on the phone. She was already aboard one of the buses, and was unclear as to what awaits her and the hundreds of children under her care.
“[It’s] a very tiring and stressful day and it is not even over,” she told The Daily Beast, exasperated. She described chaos in the streets on the way over, with massive traffic jams and panicked citizens jumping over cars in a rush to get out. The situation on the road is so bad that the bus carrying Volkova was still en route after six hours of driving to a destination that usually takes only two hours to reach from the orphanage.
The widespread panic among residents of this region is justified. Friday in Donetsk and Luhansk—which is located between Russian and Ukrainian borders—has so far seen explosions, shelling, and panic among global intelligence agencies that Russia may be planning a false flag operation to use as a pretext for a Russian invasion of Ukraine, one that could possibly involve targeting a bus full of evacuees. The looming threat of war is growing more likely by the hour, with Pushilin himself announcing that “The full-scale war can start any moment,” on Russian state television, and U.S. President Joe Biden saying he is “convinced” that Putin has made the call to invade Ukraine.
The evacuation process by Friday afternoon appeared messy, to say the least. According to a report from Znak media, Rostov authorities said they “know nothing” about the thousands of refugees that would be coming in from Donetsk and Luhansk after initial announcements of the…