What is life like in Russia-occupied areas of Ukraine?

It wasn’t a knock, it was loud banging – at about 7:30 on a recent Saturday morning.

Taras opened the door of his two-bedroom apartment in Kreminna, a town in Ukraine’s southeastern Luhansk region that was taken over by Russia in late April, to see three gun-toting soldiers in camouflage.

“Do you have a garage on the corner?” the oldest of them, a redhead in his late 20s, asked Taras imperatively.

Without waiting for his answer, the soldier continued: “Open it up.”

He was talking about a group of three dozen garages built in the early 1980s, an area which had become an informal club, where men could have a drink, crack a joke and play backgammon or chess.

But to the Russian occupiers, the garages were a source of danger, a younger, less strict soldier told 53-year-old Taras on the way, and they needed to check each for arms and explosives.

“They looked inside, checked the basement and left without saying a word,” Taras, who requested Al Jazeera withhold his last name because he “doesn’t want to be shot.”

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