Ukrainian servicemen in the trenches near the town of Avdiivka, Donetsk region. (January 8, 2022)
Ukrainian servicemen in the trenches near the town of Avdiivka, Donetsk region. (January 8, 2022) © IWPR
A Ukrainian serviceman fires a machine gun during a night battle with Russian-backed separatists in frontline positions near the village of Zolote, Luhansk region. (September 22, 2021)
A Ukrainian serviceman fires a machine gun during a night battle with Russian-backed separatists in frontline positions near the village of Zolote, Luhansk region. (September 22, 2021) © IWPR
Ukrainian servicemen in frontline positions in an industrial area close to the town of Avdiivka town, Donetsk region. (December 10, 2021)
Ukrainian servicemen in frontline positions in an industrial area close to the town of Avdiivka town, Donetsk region. (December 10, 2021) © IWPR
Ukrainian servicemen dig a trench along the frontline near the town of Avdiivka, Donetsk region. (January 8, 2022)
Ukrainian servicemen dig a trench along the frontline near the town of Avdiivka, Donetsk region. (January 8, 2022) © IWPR
Ukrainian servicemen move along frontline positions near the town of Avdiivka, Donetsk region. (January 8, 2022)
Ukrainian servicemen move along frontline positions near the town of Avdiivka, Donetsk region. (January 8, 2022) © IWPR
Ukrainian servicemen near the village of Zolote, Lugansk region. (January 22, 2022)
Ukrainian servicemen near the village of Zolote, Lugansk region. (January 22, 2022) © IWPR
A Ukrainian serviceman pets a cat while on duty at a frontline position near Avdiivka, Donetsk region. (January 9, 2022)
A Ukrainian serviceman pets a cat while on duty at a frontline position near Avdiivka, Donetsk region. (January 9, 2022) © IWPR
A Ukrainian soldier with his dog is on the frontline not far from the village of Zolote, Lugansk region. Only 16 people remain in the village. The youngest is 59 years old. (January 21, 2022)
A Ukrainian soldier with his dog is on the frontline not far from the village of Zolote, Lugansk region. Only 16 people remain in the village. The youngest is 59 years old. (January 21, 2022) © IWPR
A Ukrainian soldier walks along a trench at the front positions near the village of Zolote, Luhansk region. (January 22, 2022)
A Ukrainian soldier walks along a trench at the front positions near the village of Zolote, Luhansk region. (January 22, 2022) © IWPR
A poster of Russian President Vladimir Putin is used as target practice at the frontline position of Ukrainian Military Force near Zolote village, Lugansk region. (January 22, 2022)
A poster of Russian President Vladimir Putin is used as target practice at the frontline position of Ukrainian Military Force near Zolote village, Lugansk region. (January 22, 2022) © IWPR
A house destroyed by artillery in the village of Pisky, close to Donetsk airport. Before the war, the village had a population of about 3,000 people, today only 40 remain. (January 25, 2022)
A house destroyed by artillery in the village of Pisky, close to Donetsk airport. Before the war, the village had a population of about 3,000 people, today only 40 remain. (January 25, 2022) © IWPR
A dog wanders around the physics classroom in a school destroyed by artillery in the village of Pisky, controlled by the Ukrainian government. At the height of the fighting in 2014 and 2015, Ukrainian troops entered the Donetsk airport through Pisky. (January 25, 2022)
A dog wanders around the physics classroom in a school destroyed by artillery in the village of Pisky, controlled by the Ukrainian government. At the height of the fighting in 2014 and 2015, Ukrainian troops entered the Donetsk airport through Pisky. (January 25, 2022) © IWPR
Ukrainian servicemen prepare dinner in a shelter at a frontline position near the village of Verkhnetoretske, Donetsk region. (January 31, 2022)
Ukrainian servicemen prepare dinner in a shelter at a frontline position near the village of Verkhnetoretske, Donetsk region. (January 31, 2022) © IWPR

In the Trenches of Ukraine’s Long War

As diplomacy scrambles to avert the threat of a Russian invasion, Ukraine is locked into a consuming, nerve-wrecking conflict against Moscow-backed militias.

Thursday, 3 February, 2022

All photos by Anatoliy Stepanov

Snow blankets Ukraine’s eastern regions, covering forests and villages – and the country’s frontline. The vast winter land hides a warren of tunnels and trenches, letterbox-style watch posts, camouflage nets, barbed wire and sandbags, firebases in abandoned houses and factories.

Ukraine has been fighting Russia-backed militias for eight years. In 2014 Moscow-backed militias seized parts of the eastern border regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, in the Donbas area, once an industrial powerhouse. Since then, over 13,000 people have been killed, both combatants and civilians, and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes. Coal mines and factories lay neglected and abandoned. 

Eight years on, international diplomacy is hard at work to avert the threat of a massive military Russian incursion into Ukraine. In the east, the heavy artillery is today largely silent, but a nerve wrecking conflict continues – with no end in sight.

This publication was prepared under the "Amplify, Verify, Engage (AVE) Project" implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.

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