Victor Sipiev hasn’t seen his parents for more than a month. The 25-year-old computer programmer used to be a regular visitor to his family home, just 12 miles outside the east Ukrainian city of Donetsk. But his support for a unified Ukraine has left him increasingly estranged from his family’s pro-Russian separatist views.
“There is a misunderstanding between the generations”, he says. “There are moments when I just don’t get them.”
A United Nations official warned on Sunday that Ukraine was coming close to “the point of no return”. Ivan Simonovic, the UN assistant secretary general for human rights, told the BBC that the crisis reminded him of the conflict in the 1990s in his native Croatia.
In recent weeks more than 50 people have been killed in the violence between pro-Ukrainian government forces and separatists militias.
The divisions in eastern Ukraine extend beyond militia groups, as members of individual families, friendship groups and even relationships find themselves wrenched apart by differing views of the political situation.
“It was a war between us”, says Katya, 26, who supports a unified Ukraine but lives with her pro-Russian parents in Donetsk.
Two months ago she split up with her boyfriend of eight years after they found themselves disagreeing over the toppling of the Kremlin-backed President, Victor Yanukovych. “If two people look in different directions…” she said with a shrug.
In pictures: The Ukraine crisis
In pictures: The Ukraine crisis
1/39 Ukraine crisis
Ukrainian soldiers from the 'Azov' battalion guard their base in Mariupol, Donetsk
2/39 Ukraine crisis
Children were transferred from orphanages in Donetsk and Makeyevka to escape the fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists
3/39 Ukraine crisis
Ukrainian servicemen captured by pro-Russian separatists sit on the ground as they are assigned to clean a street in Snizhne in the Donetsk region
4/39 Ukraine crisis
A view inside the Youth Culture Centre destroyed by pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk
5/39 Ukraine crisis
A woman holds a portrait of her dead son as she speaks during a rally in front of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's office in Kiev
6/39 Ukraine crisis
A boy ascends the stairs of a bomb shelter after the shelling in the Petrovskiy district in Donetsk
7/39 Ukraine crisis
A medic looks at thirty coffins prepared for the funerals of pro-Russian rebels killed during heavy fighting at Donetsk airport, outside a Donetsk morgue
8/39 Ukraine crisis
Relatives mourn near the coffin of Mark Zverev, a taxi driver shot dead during clashes at the Donetsk airport between Ukrainian troops and the pro-Russian rebels, during his funeral in the village of Grabari on the outskirts of Donetsk
9/39 Ukraine crisis
Medical workers carry a wounded pro-Russian militant on a stretcher after armed clashes occured between pro-Russian gunmen and Ukrainian troops in Slavyansk
10/39 Ukraine crisis
A member of a newly-formed pro-Russian armed group called the Russian Orthodox Army mans a barricade near Donetsk airport
11/39 Ukraine crisis
Black smoke rises from a shot down Ukrainian Army helicopter outside Slovyansk
12/39 Ukraine crisis
A woman is overcome with emotion as she looks at blood stains and damage around a wrecked truck of supporters of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic' on road leading to the Donetsk International Airport
13/39 Ukraine crisis
A local man looks at damage near a wrecked truck of supporters of the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk People's Republic' on road leading to the Donetsk International Airport
14/39 Ukraine crisis
A bloodstained icon of Jesus is seen among blood soaked shattered glass atop a wrecked truck near the Donetsk airport
15/39 Ukraine crisis
A family member attends a funeral for Olga Prokhorenko (60) who was killed by shrapnel after Ukrainian government forces shelled their location, during the funeral in Slovyansk
16/39 Ukraine crisis
A woman reacts after seeing the lifeless body of a man killed by shrapnel following a shelling from Ukrainian government forces in Slovyansk
17/39 Ukraine crisis
Pro-Russian militants take position on the roof of the international airport of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk
18/39 Ukraine crisis
A woman embraces a pro-Russian separatist from the "East" battalion during a rally in the eastern city of Donetsk
19/39 Ukraine crisis
A Ukrainian helicopter Mi-24 gunship fires its cannons against rebels at the main terminal building of Donetsk international airport
20/39 Ukraine crisis
A pro-Russian gunman changes his position near the airport, outside Donetsk
21/39 Ukraine crisis
A pro-Russian gunman aims his weapon near the airport, outside Donetsk. Ukraine's military launched air strikes against separatists who had taken over the airport in the eastern capital of Donetsk in what appeared to be the most visible operation of the Ukrainian troops since they started a crackdown on insurgents
22/39 Ukraine crisis
Pro-Russians ride on a truck in Donetsk. A convoy of an armored personnel carrier and seven trucks carrying several hundred heavily armed men drove through central Donetsk and gunmen got out of the trucks, stood to attention and gave shots in the air in jubilation as a crowd of several thousand supporters cheered them and chanted: "Heroes!"
23/39 Ukraine crisis
An elderly woman leans against the chest of a pro-Russian gunman in Lenin square in Donetsk
24/39 Ukraine crisis
Pro-Russian militants guard a psychiatric hospital after shell explosions during the fighting between pro-Russian militants and the Ukrainian army, in Semyonovka village, outside Slavyansk
25/39 Ukraine crisis
Ukrainian troops stand guard at a checkpoint on the road near the eastern city of Izum, Donetsk
26/39 Ukraine crisis
Members of the Democratic Alliance party take part in a performance in front of the French embassy in Kiev. Protesters set up a pool with the blood of animals and models of warships in a protest against French plans for the sale of two Mistral helicopter carriers to the Russian Navy
27/39 Ukraine crisis
A man carries a portrait of pro-Russian activist Vadim Hudich, who was killed in a shooting incident at the head of a funeral procession in the eastern Ukranian town of Krasnoarmeisk
28/39 Ukraine crisis
A voter is seen inside a voting booth at a polling station during the referendum on the status of Donetsk region in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk
29/39 Ukraine crisis
Members of a local election commission sort ballots as they start counting votes of referendum on the status of Luhansk region in Luhansk
30/39 Ukraine crisis
Members of a local election commission empty a ballot box as they start counting votes of the referendum on the status of Donetsk region in Donetsk
31/39 Ukraine crisis
Members of a local election commission empty ballot boxes as they start counting votes after a referendum, at a polling station in Lugansk
32/39 Ukraine crisis
Local residents watch as others give first aid to a man who was shot in the leg by Ukranian militia in the village of Krasnoarmisk. Eyewitness said that Ukranian militia tried to stop the referendum voters briefly taking the City Hall of Krasnoarmisk, where unarmed pro-Russian supporters were gathering. Reportedly the Ukranian militia came out out the building and started shooting at the people, killing at least one man and leaving at least two others injured
33/39 Ukraine crisis
Members of a local election commission count votes after a referendum organized by the so-called Donetsk People's Republic members at a polling station in Donetsk
34/39 Ukraine crisis
Voters visit a polling station to take part in the referendum on the status of Donetsk
35/39 Ukraine crisis
An Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) with a Russian flag drives through the center of Slaviansk during the day of referendum organized by the so-called Donetsk People's Republic members in Slavyansk
36/39 Ukraine crisis
A statue of Lenin is placed in front of a pro-Russian barricade on the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk
37/39 Ukraine crisis
A feamle veteran (C) sings during 'Victory Day' celebrations in Donetsk
38/39 Ukraine crisis
People stand near the burning Mariupol police station
39/39 Ukraine crisis
Ukrainian soldiers stand guard beside an armoured personnel carrier at a checkpoint in Mariupol. Ukrainian forces seized the rebel-held city hall in the eastern port city of Mariupol, driving out pro-Russian activists, then withdrew, making no attempt to hold onto the building
Others describe married couples who no longer speak to each other and bitter arguments within individual households.
One young activist described a pair of brothers within her extended family so divided that while one was plotting a move to Moscow or Crimea so as to be living on Russian soil, the other was among the crowds calling for Yanukovych’s removal at the Maidan protests in Kiev. Lena Glazunova’s family history is representative of the complex web of loyalties and ethnicities in this region. Her mother is a Russian born in Volgograd, the city formerly known as Stalingrad. Her father was born in Ukraine to a Ukrainian father and a Russian mother.
Glazunova’s support for a unified Ukraine has pitted her against her parents and one of her three sisters. She is enraged by her parents’ desire to be reunited with Russia. “I am pro-Ukrainian, I love Ukraine,” she said.
Her father, Alexandr, thinks she is mistaken. “We are all Russians. I am Russian in my heart. I have relatives in Russia,” he said. “But you gave birth to me in Ukraine,” was her retort.
Alexandr blames his daughter’s views on the Ukrainian education system. “Take away the history from a nation and after one generation you could can do with this nation whatever you want”, he said, before launching into a lengthy explanation of the region’s historic ties to Russia.
His daughter argues that the older generation is nostalgic for the stability of life they enjoyed when Ukraine was part of the former Soviet Union. “When they got this freedom they really didn’t know what to do with it”, she says, speaking of Ukraine’s independence in 1991. “They have a slave mentality. They want to be under authority.”
Despite her well-established life in Donetsk – a family, a circle of friends and her own business, Lena is prepared to leave if the region comes under Moscow’s control. “If it happens that Russia will come, I will get my stuff and leave.”
Last week, the Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared independence from Kiev after self-rule vote condemned by the Ukrainian government and many Western nations.
The mood in the city of Donetsk has calmed over the past week despite continued violence in the surrounding region. Victor has also softened his stance since the referendum. This week he has started to talk to his parents again. “Parents are parents,” he explains, and besides, “it was my father’s birthday”.