Inside a Russian-controlled Ukrainian accommodation center

STORY: This is a temporary accommodation centre in Berdyansk, in Russian-controlled Ukraine.

Ahead of a long-expected Ukrainian counter-offensive, families were brought here by Russian-installed authorities in the southern Zaporizhzhia region.

A Reuters reporter was free to talk to evacuees and Russian-installed officials, although there were some areas where filming was not allowed, and access was agreed with local authorities.

A volunteer from the Russian Movement for Children and Youth said about 2,000 people have arrived so far.

The Russian-installed acting governor of the region, which Moscow has claimed as its own, said the increased Ukrainian shelling of 18 settlements near the frontline led to what he called the temporary relocation of people.

Reuters was unable to independently verify those details about Ukrainian shelling.

Ukraine’s military has accused Moscow of forcibly evacuating people from the area - something it denies.

Berdyansk has been under Russian control since February 27 of last year, just three days after Moscow launched what it calls its "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Three evacuees interviewed by Reuters said they had chosen to be evacuated themselves for security reasons.

Among them is 22-year-old Lyudmila, who did not give her last name.

"We used to go out and watch the shelling. Especially at night, you could see the flashes as they launch the shells. When it lands, everything goes red - we've had shells landing nearby and when it landed the entire sky was red - like a shine. People get used to it fast, children get used to it - they stop being afraid ... When they announced the evacuation, we decided not to ignore it, because who knows what might happen. It's not just for nothing. So we decided to leave."

Two of the evacuees expressed satisfaction with their new conditions.

But Lyudmila and the others Reuters spoke with all agreed on one thing:

They said they hoped to one day return home.