Crushed tanks in the mud, destroyed buildings, and grieving families – this is the picture of a recaptured village in eastern Ukraine, showing the price that locals and their former Russian occupiers had to pay.
Last month, in the aftermath of fierce fighting following the Russian invasion on February 24th, Ukrainian troops recaptured Husarivka, a main agricultural village about 150km southeast of Kharkiv, with a peacetime population of 500-600.
After failing to capture major cities such as Kyiv and Kharkiv, Russian troops withdrew to redirect their offensive to the Donbas, to the southeast. Against this background, the inhabitants of the surrounding areas began to clean up after weeks of occupation.
Reiterating stories of poor discipline and poor food supplies for Russian troops, which can be heard in other settlements in northern and eastern Ukraine from which the Russians withdrew, 79-year-old Nadezhda Sirova said young soldiers roamed from house to house. to want food.
Some Russians said they were training, while others said they had come to purge Ukraine of bandits and “Nazis,” added Syrova, standing in the fields near her house.
“Where do you see bandits and Nazis here? We are just normal, peaceful people. Ukrainians,” she said.
In the fields above the village can be seen cremated armored personnel carriers and two crushed Russian self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, which are left abandoned in the mud. Abandoned items such as gas masks, computer printers, and soaked shoes can be seen around them.
In the village itself, while walking on the road, he came across a destroyed, already rusting Russian tank. Its dome was torn off by an explosion and fell next to it.
A Ukrainian soldier said the fighting lasted about three weeks, saying the Ukrainian army had used anti-tank weapons, including artillery and Javelin-supplied missiles, and repulsed two Russian battalion tactical groups.
“We bypassed the enemy on the right and left, took up good positions, and destroyed his equipment,” said the soldier, who agreed to speak to the media on condition that he be quoted only by his nickname Parker.
According to him, his unit captured a Russian officer and two scouts from the engineering department, who were trying to place mines around the village to stop the Ukrainian attack. The Ukrainian unit had to repel counterattacks, which according to the Ukrainian soldier were undertaken by Russian sabotage and intelligence groups.
“We repulsed their attacks three times when they tried to enter the village,” he said.
His story cannot be confirmed, but at least a dozen destroyed armored vehicles remained in the village and the fields around it, including tanks with the distinctive “Z” mark for Russian troops.
According to Ukrainian authorities, nearly 20,000 Russian soldiers have been killed and hundreds of tanks and armored personnel carriers destroyed since the invasion. There are also much lower estimates, but representatives of Western countries say that Russian victims number in the thousands.
Again, according to Ukraine, hundreds of Ukrainian civilians were killed while under Russian occupation. Russia has denied targeting civilians, but residents of Husarivka have reported several locals killed and missing.
Three bodies were removed from the basement of one of the houses, burned beyond recognition, and taken for examination for possible traces of torture, they added.
The situation in Husarivka coincides with stories from many villages east of Kharkiv, a predominantly Russian-speaking city near Ukraine’s northeastern border that has been attacked by President Vladimir Putin’s army since the early days of the war.
Although there is no longer a direct threat of Russian troops entering the city, they have nevertheless subjected it to a partial blockade and, in recent days, to increasingly heavy bombing.
Residential buildings and infrastructure were hit in Kharkiv, killing dozens of people. In just one night last week, more than 60 artillery and rocket attacks took place. Reuters reporters heard mortar shelling in northern parts of the city on Friday.
James Mackenzie, Reuters
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