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Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Donetsk regions - Ukraine, April 2022 - Ongoing

The war in Eastern Ukraine continues to escalate as it entered the third year since Russia's President Vladimir Putin ordered its full-scale invasion in February 2022, after months of diplomatic tensions. Although the hostilities in the eastern regions started in 2014, many civilians have been forced to relocate to Western Ukraine or European countries. Those who decided to stay in frontline towns often lived in basements of bombed and burned-out buildings without basic amenities; under constant threat of artillery fire, they primarily relied on the help of volunteers providing them with drinking water, food, and petrol for power generators.

Why people stay behind and decide to remain in frontline towns is difficult to answer. However, some different reasons and backgrounds could be taken into account. In recent history, the eastern part of Ukraine has been dramatically exposed to Russian influence and false narratives - affecting and drawing its ideology close to this part of the population, who might be nostalgic for the Soviet Union and wish to be part of Russia. On the other hand, home is considered to be their heritage; it is difficult for them to leave it behind and start a new life at an advanced age, especially considering that most pensioners receive 2500 Hryvnia a month's worth of pension wage, which is only a bit over 50 Euro.

In 2023, Russian forces frequently targeted critical civilian infrastructures, leaving Ukrainian citizens without electricity, water and heating on the brink of collapse. Civilian gatherings have also been targeted, and they are often struck by ballistic missiles, such as the RIA restaurant in Kramatorsk in June, Druzhba Hotel in Pokrovsk in August, and a cafe' in Hroza where one-fifth of the village was killed during a reburial vigil in October 2023. 

The United Nations estimated that nearly four million people are internally displaced, and a further six and a half million have left the country; at least ten thousand civilians have been killed since February 2022; it is believed that civilian casualties are significantly higher since officials have been unable to visit areas where hostilities are still occurring. 

The relentless bombardments have left a trail of destruction, crippling Ukraine's infrastructure, economy, and way of life, leaving every Ukrainian affected by the ongoing conflict.  

This work was possible thanks to the help of local producers Maxim, Sergey, and Alexey with the support of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine.


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