Marina is one of them, who is reluctant to give her last name out of concern for her own safety.
She decided to stay in her home city of Kramatorsk, about 10 miles from the front, although she had a way of escaping to Kyiv or even western Ukraine, away from the fighting.
She said the prospect of having to harvest rainwater for drinking or use wood for heat didn’t scare her or others “guided by hope”.
She is also cautious about signing the form. “First, I’ll sit down and read,” Marina, 60, said by phone from Kramatorsk, where she’s spent her life.
“I believe in God, I believe in the Ukrainian army,” she added. “This is my destiny.”
Analysts say Ukraine is eager to get people out of the area to minimize civilian casualties and give it more freedom of movement.
Michael Clark, professor of war studies at King’s College London, said Kyiv intends to heavily defend major cities such as Slavyansk and Kramatorsk.
Clark said the Ukrainian military wants a strategic victory in the Russian-occupied south, where it is expected to launch a counteroffensive. For any success there to have a political impact, the rest of Donbas cannot be lost, Clark said.
The withdrawal logically gives Ukrainians more leeway to defend or leave a city, said Michael A. Horowitz, director of intelligence at the consulting firm Le Beck and a geopolitical and security analyst. without having to consider civilians.
“The Ukrainians have also been asking people to evacuate from the beginning, and the presence of civilians makes the job of the Ukrainian army more difficult,” Horowitz said.
“So Zelensky’s order may simply be an escalation in efforts to evacuate civilians from areas that have become major fighting areas,” Horowitz said.
Human rights group Amnesty International said in a much-criticized report on Thursday that Ukrainian forces have sometimes placed civilians in schools, residential buildings and other places in densely populated areas, exposing them to Russian attacks.
Zelensky condemned the report, as did other officials in Kyiv and allies on social media.
Amnesty International said in a statement that it had made clear that “the Ukrainian military actions we describe in no way justify Russia’s routine violations of international humanitarian law.”
“When we identify violations of international humanitarian law, as we have done in this case, we will report them fairly and accurately. Ignoring violations in favour of one side would not be meaningful human rights reporting,” it said.
People want to stay for a variety of reasons, Oleksandr Ivanov, a volunteer working for a local aid group that helped evacuated, told NBC News.
“Many people can’t leave their aging parents,” Ivanov said. “It’s psychologically difficult for older people to leave. Of course, some people believe they won’t leave until the shell hits their house.”