Article by: Noah Brooks
An exclusive photo report from the frontline in Shyrokyne by the US photographer Noah Brooks, modernwarcollective.com who traveled to the frontline in Shyrokyne.
Tensions were high, but life carried on as usual. A wedding party posed for photos on the street, kids played in the playgrounds and in fountains, men fished from small bridges near the factory, families fed the pigeons outside the drama theatre. But just a few miles to the east, Russian and DNR militants were carving a hard path with heavy weapons, and now they were on the city's doorstep.
MariupolMariupol is a strategic city for the DNR/Russian forces because it's port and factories will offer the start of a real economy for the self proclaimed people's republics. Occupying Mariupol would also create a land bridge from Russian occupied Crimea and the Russian mainland. Supplying Crimea is costly and time consuming. Although the city briefly fell into separatists hands in early summer 2014, volunteer groups quickly took the city back on 13 June 2014 and it has remained in Ukrainian hands ever since.
My first few days in Mariupol were spent meandering around town, sitting in my hotel, and trying find someone who can take me to the front. I had press accreditation from the Security Service of Ukraine, but they gave me the run around when it came to obtaining required ID, so I had to bypass the government checkpoints and find my own way in.The city itself has been hit by Russian-separatist artillery strikes on the outskirts. This gas station is one of the objects that have been damaged in the attacks.
Concert on the beachI spent my first few days in Mariupol Networking to find rides to the front line, and looking for photos in the mean time. The local press secretary invited me to a private concert on the beach for a group of soldiers. The beach was heavily fortified with trenches dug in and weapons hidden in the sand. The sound of shelling in Shyrokyne could be heard over the music throughout the entire concert.
ShyrokyneI had established a good relationship with Regiment Azov on my previous trips, and after a few days of endless phone calls and emails, I was able to meet up with them at their base and hitch a ride to their forward most position in Shyrokyne, at the top of a hill just 200 yards from their enemy. On my first night in the trenches the guys had a barbeque with steak and apples
First nightThe first night started off very quiet. It was a clear spring night, full of stars and a bright moon, which was our only light. It was dark on the hill, and even darker in the village down below where the separatists were.
After hours in the trenches, a soldier kept watch over enemy positions using night vision. Volunteers continue being the main source of hi-tech devices and army necessities as Ukraine's corrupt army system is resistant to change.
I stayed up late with a soldier who spoke English as he and some other guys kept watch with night vision goggles. It was eerily quiet, and every so often the dogs in the village below would start barking, telling us that something was moving down at the bottom of the hill.
The thought of our position being over run in the night was terrifying. I stayed up till 3 or 4 AM then tried to get some sleep. The platoon commander was reading his Bible while his men slept.