SIVERSK, Ukraine – The town of Siversk in eastern Ukraine, for weeks the northernmost Ukrainian settlement in the Donbas before the Russian occupation began, was a military post for much of the spring and summer summer.
The porch of the gas station on its eastern outskirts provided shade for soldiers waiting to go to the front. A small shop, open a few hours a day, serving townspeople and the military alike.
To the east, the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk fell to the Russians in June and July. Weeks passed. Russian forces advance. Siversk road station soon turned into Siversk frontline town.
The Donbas region of mining towns and rolling stockpiles has been central to Moscow’s war goals since Russia’s defeat around the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in the spring. With Luhansk province under Russian control, analysts believe neighboring Donetsk province, with Siversk near the border, will fall next.
But after the Ukrainian army’s sweeping victory in the northeast last week saw the recapture of dozens of villages and the liberation of more than a thousand square miles of territory, it seems that Siversk’s fate once again remains uncertain. be decided.
On Tuesday, Ukrainian officials announced that about 5 kilometers away, Russian troops had been deployed from the village of Bilohorivka. But from Siversk, Ukraine’s victory is not clear. Black smoke hung on the horizon and shelling echoed in the distance.
Some of the remaining residents had heard about Ukraine’s success in Bilohorivka via their smartphones but others remained unconvinced, with no connection to the outside world.
“We have no TV, no connection, no electricity,” said Valeriy Volodymyrovch, head of a local commune in Siversk. “How do we hear what’s going on there?”
When there was internet in Siversk, it was a gift from their mayor, said the resident of Siversk. Most mornings, they added, the mayor goes to a cell tower somewhere in town and recharges a generator.
Siversk, which had a population of 10,000 before the war, has a watercolor train station. Factories break the craggy horizon like shipwrecks.
The air is colder now. The leaves turned from green to brown drifted into bomb craters and the facades of houses were destroyed. Three freshly dug graves, marked with homemade crosses, lie on the edge of a field.
Military vehicles raced from one street to the other. The firecrackers exploded non-stop. Drone buzz in the air.
Now that the shop is closed, its window is broken. No more Ukrainian troops in the shade of the gas station. They used to lean into their pockets and laugh, almost certainly chatting about the war that lay ahead.
Natalia Yermak Reporting contributions from Druzhkivka, Ukraine.