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Retreating Russian troops leave death and destruction in villages of Kherson Oblast (photo report)

Russian troops
Ukrainian villagers face chaos and destruction after Russian occupation. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
Retreating Russian troops leave death and destruction in villages of Kherson Oblast (photo report)
Article by: Christine Chraibi
Ukrainian villages occupied by Russian soldiers – whether in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts or the Donbas – are almost totally destroyed. Nevertheless, life continues as residents evaluate the losses and wonder how to restore their homes and fields.

Ukrainian photojournalist Andriy Dubchak followed the early days of the Kherson offensive, talking with locals and reporting from the battle zone and the newly liberated villages.

As Russian troops withdraw from towns and villages in southern Kherson Oblast, Ukrainian soldiers are confronted with the destruction left behind by fleeing enemy soldiers who occupied the area for months.

Vysokopillia is just one of the many villages in Kherson Oblast liberated by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in early September after nearly six months of Russian occupation. Like many other settlements in the region, 80% of the village was destroyed. What was once a flourishing farm area with a population of 3,899 people is now a wasteland devoid of people and basic amenities.

Russian troops abandon IFV
Destroyed Russian IFV lies in the village. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner

“270 residents remain in the village. Due to constant shelling, it’s impossible to restore electricity and water supply or start rebuilding and renovating hospitals, pharmacies and shops. The regional authorities are working hard to restore electricity, water and heating,” says the head of the Kherson regional military administration Yaroslav Yanushevych.

Vysokopillia is an urban-type settlement in Beryslav Raion, Kherson Oblast in southern Ukraine. It is strategically located between the valleys of the Dnipro and Inhulets Rivers. Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it had a population of 3,899.

On 16 March, Russian forces occupied Vysokopillia and the surrounding area. After weeks of fierce fighting, the Ukrainian army recaptured Vysokopillia on 4 September and hoisted the Ukrainian flag on the local school building. Unfortunately, the Kherson offensive was and continues to be marked by heavy losses, mostly caused by lack of ammunition, strong Russian defenses and the destructive role of Russian artillery.

little girl scared
The little girl is four years old. She is afraid to approach the camera team. When she hears thunder, she asks her grandmother whether the war has started again… Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner

The liberation of the village of Vysokopillia, which served as an artillery launch point for Russian forces, is a sign that the Ukrainian army is pushing back Russian defenses in the oblast, comments military expert Oleksandr Musiienko, head of the Centre for Military and Legal Studies.

“It was from there that the Russians fired their missiles, which struck Dnipropetrovsk Oblast and further territories. Therefore, artillery fire is less intense now, and this is important because the Russian defense is being pushed back.”

Russian troops
The school where the Ukrainian military raised the Ukrainian flag after liberation. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner

Ukrainian photojournalist Andriy Dubchak followed the early days of the Kherson offensive, dispatching live reports from the battle zone and the newly liberated villages. He is currently in Donetsk Oblast, and his photo report of devastated Lyman is a story in itself. Here, he gives a visual report of life in the Ukrainian town of Vysokopillia, Kherson Oblast.

farmer Volodymyr
Over half of the buildings and homes in the village are seriously damaged. “LNR” militants lived in this house. Volodymyr, a once successful local farmer, wonders how he will restore his home, fields and crops. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
farmer Volodymyr
“We can’t give up. We must continue to live and work.” says pensioner Volodymyr as he looks at his ruined house. “In the meantime, we’ll start clean up the debris.”. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
Russian troops
A Russian mine… dangerous to people and animals. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
Nadiya Mykolayivna survived the occupation
Nadiya Mykolayivna survived the occupation. “They can build their ‘russian world’ at home. We don’t need them here. We want Ukrainian-style prosperity.” she says. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
farmer Volodymyr
Volodymyr’s courtyard after occupation. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
Russian troops
Local car marked with the Russian war-sign “Z” and “Sibir”. The car was stolen from the locals, of course. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
Russian war-sign Z
There are no more vehicles left in the village. The locals move around on bikes. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
Russian troops
Plan of Russian combat rotations and a map of Russian firing points. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
Russian troops
Eyewitnesses claim that several persons were executed. They were hastily buried in one area of the village. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
Villagers receive aid
Villagers line up to receive humanitarian aid. The Russian stole food, drinks and clothes from the residents. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
Russian troops
Devastated house in the middle of the village. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
Russian troops
The interior of a house inhabited by the Russian occupation forces. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
Russian troops
Press officer Karina and local dog “Sirko”. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
Russian troops
All the villages along the road are also totally destroyed. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
Russian troops
Another Russian mine on the road. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner
Russian troops
A Ukrainian soldier strolls along the main street. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Donbas Frontliner

 

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