the Russians left, the city of Trostyanets between desolation and relief

Twisted, torn to pieces, they are silent witnesses to the disorderly withdrawal of Russian troops. On the road between Trostianets and Sumy, a Russian border town in northeastern Ukraine, the already rusty-coloured hulls of Russian army tanks, tracked guns and armored personnel carriers are cluttered.

This is when they left. Our people pinned them to the ground– says Oleg, one of the territorial defense fighters posted at the checkpoint at the entrance to the city, pointing to the turret of a tank that was literally decapitated from the impact of a shot.

Everything seems to be turned upside down

Further, at the exit from the city, 17 cars were suddenly discovered by a drone and destroyed by Ukrainian security forces. We even killed one of their generals! “, exclaims another soldier next to Oleg. The impact, also seen by the drone, shattered his command vehicle.

For a month, this small town with a population of 20,000 people, located north of Kharkov, was occupied by the 4th Kantemirov Panzer Division. Descended from Russia on February 25, the day after the start of the war started by the Russians, he crossed the city on the roar of caterpillars, was driven several kilometers further by Ukrainian troops, before finally returning to be buried in Trostyanets, from where she began to bombard neighborhood.

In the center of the city, in the shadow of a burned-out house, everything seems to have turned upside down, the shelling was so strong. There are makeshift trenches around, boxes of ammunition, rockets and boxes of combat rations are mixed in the mud.

“Their rations are overdue since 2015”

Taras Kushirov, a gloomy 24-year-old soldier, recalls: The first week of stay were all 19 year olds. They seemed a little lost. They were looking for food because their rations were expired since 2015! The second week was different. The youth were replaced by pro-Russian separatists from Donetsk and Donbass. There was chaos.

Beginners feel at home. They evict people from their home to settle there, oppress the inhabitants, beat some of them. Taras is arrested by a group of soldiers on the run for the third week. For them, I was a suspect, I had to give information to the territorial defense, they were obliged. Released after 24 hours, Taras did not wait for rest and fled to the “territory”.

Slightly hanging over the city center, the station seems to dominate the main street. Here is the headquarters of the Russians: MSTA, a 152-mm tracked howitzer with an inclined barrel, lies in front of the building, frozen in a blackened hull.

Read also: Under neon lights and under a tranquilizer: in the Kiev metro, life is safe from bombs

This destroyed Russian MSTA howitzer in front of the city station had a firing range of about thirty kilometers. | FRANCOIS THOMAS

“You need to be careful, it can be mined”

The trenches filled with water seem ludicrous, given the destruction of the building. A truck with a red Z on the door is surrounded by a wall of empty ammo boxes. The bombardments blinded the stopped trains.

The Russians were sleeping below, but you have to be careful, it could be mined, warns a resident who came, like others, to inspect the scale of the disaster. An iron staircase descends to what served as a hostel. Wooden beds stacked on top of each other are full of abandoned bars. Socks still hanging on a thread are waiting for the return of their owners. On the ground, a pile of rations rubs against his boots. The place exudes moisture and urine. “This is where they fell when they were bombed”Taras laughs.

The city with a population of 20,000 was captured by the Ukrainian army and the “territorial” brigade. | REUTERS

Shower mini Oreos

500 meters away, on a muddy street, stands the economic attraction of Trostyanets. A huge blue building, a chocolate factory, a subsidiary of the American agri-food group Mondelez International, produced Milka chocolate bars for Ukraine and other countries, as well as Oreo cookies, several other brands of candy, Maxwell coffee, Jacobs coffee …

The “territorial” unit left its mark on the old factory. Taras introduces. A sweet scent is in the air. it’s palm oilsaid Taras, pointing to the crushed wax-yellow cubes at his feet.

Wrapped cardboard pallets rise to the ceiling. Taras quickly grabs the box and tears it. Escape from mini Oreos. Half surprised, half satiated, the soldiers stare at the kilos of chocolate bars laid out at their feet. Now Taras leads us upstairs. – These are offices, Russians slept here. »

See also: Suspended life, in the capital at the gates of the war

The mayor of the city in a bulletproof vest inspects the destruction in his city. | FRANCOIS THOMAS

“War is far from over”

In the darkness, illuminated by the lights of phones, chaos is everywhere, as if a hurricane has passed. The same traces of haste and abandonment as at the station. Helmets, gas masks, boots, and military parkas mix with sleeping bags scattered in the corners.

On the table are sheets of A4 format, on which the word “Mine” is written in bold, stand next to the road map of the Russian Federation.

Below, an energetic little man, clad in a bulletproof vest with a pistol on his chest, moves from place to place. The damage is inspected by the mayor of Trostyanets. What can be salvaged and what can’t.

It was an arsenal. One of our missiles hit him and blew everything up.he says, scanning the ground with his eyes. Dozens of rockets exploded from the heat, fanning the fire. Behind him, the men are busy clearing empty boxes of Grad missiles from the warehouse. When asked what they are going to do with it, they reply: Barricades. The war is far from over.

REPORT. Ukraine: the Russians are gone, the city of Trostyanets between desolation and relief

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