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.
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.
Anatoliy Stepanov is a Ukraine-based photojournalist сovering the war in Eastern Ukraine.
This publication was prepared under the "Amplify, Verify, Engage (AVE) Project" implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.