Vasyl leaves the battlefield after being wounded. He lost his son, a soldier, in early March.
Vasyl leaves the battlefield after being wounded. He lost his son, a soldier, in early March. © Anatoliy Stepanov
Russian T-72 tank on fire after a clash with the armed forces of Ukraine, Lugansk region.
Russian T-72 tank on fire after a clash with the armed forces of Ukraine, Lugansk region. © Anatoliy Stepanov
A Ukrainian MLRS Grad is shot from Ukrainian positions in Luhansk region.
A Ukrainian MLRS Grad is shot from Ukrainian positions in Luhansk region. © Anatoliy Stepanov
Ukrainian soldiers fight near the village of Zolote, Lugansk region.
Ukrainian soldiers fight near the village of Zolote, Lugansk region. © Anatoliy Stepanov
A Ukrainian soldier walks near a destroyed Russian tank in the village of Gusarovka, in Kharkiv region.
A Ukrainian soldier walks near a destroyed Russian tank in the village of Gusarovka, in Kharkiv region. © Anatoliy Stepanov
A soldier's boot splattered with blood in the waiting room of a military hospital in Kramatorsk, north of Donetsk.
A soldier's boot splattered with blood in the waiting room of a military hospital in Kramatorsk, north of Donetsk. © Anatoliy Stepanov
A Ukrainian tanker surfaces from the military vehicle after a successful battle south of Kharkiv region.
A Ukrainian tanker surfaces from the military vehicle after a successful battle south of Kharkiv region. © Anatoliy Stepanov
A Ukrainian soldier walks past a missile from the MLRS Uragan at a frontline position near Izyum. The town, about 124 kilometres south of Kharkiv, was the site of a fierce battle as Russian sought to control it due to its importance as a transport node.
A Ukrainian soldier walks past a missile from the MLRS Uragan at a frontline position near Izyum. The town, about 124 kilometres south of Kharkiv, was the site of a fierce battle as Russian sought to control it due to its importance as a transport node. © Anatoliy Stepanov
Ukrainian soldiers preparing for an attack in Luhansk region.
Ukrainian soldiers preparing for an attack in Luhansk region. © Anatoliy Stepanov
Ukrainian artillerymen rest at their positions in the Lugansk region.
Ukrainian artillerymen rest at their positions in the Lugansk region. © Anatoliy Stepanov
A military medic and police officers try to help people after a rocket attack on the railway station in Kramatorsk, a city with a pre-war population of 157,000, north of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine.
A military medic and police officers try to help people after a rocket attack on the railway station in Kramatorsk, a city with a pre-war population of 157,000, north of Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. © Anatoliy Stepanov
Eva plays with her kitten near the shelter where she lives with her mother and brother in the city of Rubizhne, about 117 kilometres north of Luhansk.
Eva plays with her kitten near the shelter where she lives with her mother and brother in the city of Rubizhne, about 117 kilometres north of Luhansk. © Anatoliy Stepanov
A resident of the city of Lysychansk walks past the remains of a Smerch rocket on a city street in April.
A resident of the city of Lysychansk walks past the remains of a Smerch rocket on a city street in April. © Anatoliy Stepanov
Residents of Lysychansk examine the crater from the explosion of a FAB 500 air bomb in the courtyard of a multi-storey building in mid-April.
Residents of Lysychansk examine the crater from the explosion of a FAB 500 air bomb in the courtyard of a multi-storey building in mid-April. © Anatoliy Stepanov
Kharkiv residents in the city’s Geroev Pratsi metro station. Many families have sheltered in metro stations for over two months.
Kharkiv residents in the city’s Geroev Pratsi metro station. Many families have sheltered in metro stations for over two months. © Anatoliy Stepanov
Residents of Lyman, a town controlled by the Russian-backed separatists of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, in an armoured bus during the evacuation of the village of Rayhorodka, Donetsk region.
Residents of Lyman, a town controlled by the Russian-backed separatists of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, in an armoured bus during the evacuation of the village of Rayhorodka, Donetsk region. © Anatoliy Stepanov
Volunteers carry Lyman resident Nina Tikhomirova on a stretcher into an ambulance during her evacuation from the village of Raigorodka, Donetsk region.
Volunteers carry Lyman resident Nina Tikhomirova on a stretcher into an ambulance during her evacuation from the village of Raigorodka, Donetsk region. © Anatoliy Stepanov
A private house destroyed by an artillery shell in the village of Mykolaivka, Donetsk region.
A private house destroyed by an artillery shell in the village of Mykolaivka, Donetsk region. © Anatoliy Stepanov
Employees of Ukraine’s state emergency situations service help a disabled person during the evacuation of civilians at the railway station in the city of Pokrovsk, in Donetsk region.
Employees of Ukraine’s state emergency situations service help a disabled person during the evacuation of civilians at the railway station in the city of Pokrovsk, in Donetsk region. © Anatoliy Stepanov
Residents of Severodonetsk hide in the basement of a house during artillery shelling.
Residents of Severodonetsk hide in the basement of a house during artillery shelling. © Anatoliy Stepanov
A wounded resident of Severodonetsk in the hospital before surgery. A shell exploded in his yard in April.
A wounded resident of Severodonetsk in the hospital before surgery. A shell exploded in his yard in April. © Anatoliy Stepanov
Residents of Severodonetsk come out of hiding after shelling, four days after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Residents of Severodonetsk come out of hiding after shelling, four days after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
An apartment building in Bakhmut destroyed by rocket fire on June 13, 2022. Civilians feel the onslaught of advancing Russian troops in the city located about 60 kilometres south-west of Severodonetsk and is located on the main road leading to the city at the epicentre of the fighting.
An apartment building in Bakhmut destroyed by rocket fire on June 13, 2022. Civilians feel the onslaught of advancing Russian troops in the city located about 60 kilometres south-west of Severodonetsk and is located on the main road leading to the city at the epicentre of the fighting. © Anatoliy Stepanov

Ukraine: The Fight for the “Dead Cities”

In eastern Ukraine, Zelensky calls for long-range weapons to contain the Russian advantage in artillery and airpower.

Wednesday, 15 June, 2022

All photos by Anatoliy Stepanov

Intense Russian bombing has reduced Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine to rubble, with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky warning that they have become “dead cities”. 

In spring, Russia’s war into Ukraine was a three-front invasion, which Ukrainian troops fought with rocket-propelled grenades, antitank weapons and drones. Confronted with significant losses, the Russian military regrouped and focused its assault on eastern Ukraine and specifically on the Donbas region, drawing on its advantages in artillery and airpower.

With the aim of controlling territory and capturing cities, even if that means flattening them, the toll of the street-by-street battles and bombs raining from above has been terrifying.

The two eastern cities have been reduced to rubble, with few civilians remaining of their pre-war population of around 100,000; those who have not been able to flee hide in basements, with little to survive on. 

After a visit to the eastern front, Zelensky said in a video address that the “battle for Severodonetsk is probably one of the most difficult during this war, the fate of Donbas is being decided there”.

The two cities, separated by the Seversky Donets river, have become the centre of the eastern front of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine. Their capture would hand control of the entire Luhansk region to the Russian forces. 

Zelensky has renewed his call to partners to supply Ukraine with long-range weapons. The Ukrainian military has enough ammunition and weapons but “it needs weapons that really hits the range that we need to reduce the advantage of the Russian Federation’s equipment,” he said.
 

This publication was prepared under the "Amplify, Verify, Engage (AVE) Project" implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.

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