ERR in Lyman: The scene of two tank battles, and still under constant fire
Towns, cities and villages across the front line in Ukraine experience constant bombardment, ERR reports from the Donbas region.
During the full-scale war that lasted more than a year, nothing much remains of the city of Lyman. Lyman has been a battle tank twice – at the beginning of the war, when it was captured by Russian troops, and last fall, when it was liberated by the Ukrainian army.
Little of the pre-war infrastructure of Lyman, Donetsk region, remains, ERR correspondent Anton Aleksejev and cameraman Kristjan Svirgsden report.
The town has been the scene of two tank battles since the Russian invasion began over a year ago – the first, when it was occupied by Russian forces, early on in the conflict, and the second in the fall, when Ukrainian forces liberated the town of around 20,000 inhabitants (pre-war).
Aleksejev and Svirgsden were last in Lyman last November, when the main question facing local residents was simply surviving the winter.
Winter is over and spring has arrived, but the city remains under constant fire.
One local resident, Natalia, told ERR that: "The front may be far away, but shells are falling here all the time. The powerful fire leads to houses being destroyed, windows blown in. It is very frightening, but this is how we have been living here. We have been cooking using with an iron range. Once, when there was a particularly powerful bombardment, we had to rush to the basement, where we ate and slept."
At the same time, Natalia is one of the very few Lyman residents whose house remained more or less intact. "We've been fortunate so far. Only the windows in our apartment have been blown in. The damage is minimal, so living here is viable. We're trying to rebuild our lives quietly, and to continue living," she said.
However, Yuri, who lives across the street, did not fare so well, losing his house, while a neighbor was killed. Three weeks back, a shell fell in his yard.
"We were promised that once the war is over, everything will go back to normal. But when will it be over and when will everything be restored to normal? I have no idea. I don't think we will get everything back here, as they did in Bucha or Irpin, where everything was carried out in two months. We have been hit very brutally," Yuri said.
When Russian troops occupied Lyman, soldiers from the so-called Donetsk People's Republic commandeered the most luxurious house in the city, residents say.
"They installed machine gun nests on the first and second floors. That's where they lived. Needless to say, they killed everyone living around them," Oleksandr said.
Before the current war, Oleksandr had been a businessman, but now he guards what is left of his house against possible plunderers. He sent the rest of his family to Germany, due to the war. They still have nowhere to return to.
"When Ukrainian forces got back here, thank God, the electricity was restored. I asked for a room with electricity, but there was no window out front. There are very few people left in the city. At most, one person for each house of this size. The children were all taken away. It's been terrible. One good thing is that humanitarian aid was brought here for us," Oleksandr went on.
Nonetheless, those local residents who stayed have little reason for optimism. About the only good news has been that spring has arrived, though even this will take a very different form from usual.
"Those trees that have survived need to be sprayed [with pesticides]. Maybe they'll even start to bear fruit. The currant bushes also need to be sprayed before they bud, to protect against parasites. This mustn't be done too late. We'll also plant something, like potato bulbs for instance. Something you need to eat," Yuri went on.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte