In a frontline town, the City Council ‘is not working,’ and the few who venture out don’t stray far.

Source: www.nytimes.com : 2022-07-12 19:18:32 : Carlotta Gall and Kamila Hrabchuk

SIVERSK, Ukraine — The streets of this frontline town are deserted, pockmarked with shell craters, and littered with broken metal roofing and dangling electricity lines. The only vehicles on the roads on Tuesday were military jeeps, speeding to and from positions on the edge of town. The wheat fields nearby were blackened and burned.

As the Russian advance grinds steadily westward into Donetsk Province, the town of Siversk has come under increasingly heavy bombardment in recent weeks. The town is still home to about 3,500 people, including 200 children, but government officials and civilian services have withdrawn from it, leaving only the Ukrainian military present.

Russian forces have been seeking to conquer the Donbas region, in eastern Ukraine, which comprises the territories of Luhansk and Donetsk, and would give President Vladimir V. Putin a symbolic victory in a mineral-rich region bordering Russia that has long been in his sights.

In Siversk, the conflict has taken its toll.

“The City Council is not working,” reads a handwritten notice on the locked door of the council building. “We are not handing out humanitarian aid.”

A few civilians ventured outside their homes on Tuesday, chatting to neighbors but not venturing far from their front gates.

“I don’t know about the situation; I spent the whole day in my basement,” said Yuriy, 67, standing beside his garden fence. “We hear explosions on this side and that, but we don’t know what is going on.”

The few people on the streets seemed intent on finding food. Police and volunteer organizations have continued delivering humanitarian aid from time to time. Two men struggled to balance sacks of flour over the crossbars of their bicycles. Further out of town, two boys were cycling home with a plastic bag of tinned food and biscuits, the elder boy cycling, the younger clinging on behind him. Just focused on getting up the hill, they did not say where they had obtained the supplies.

Russian forces suffered a heavy setback on Sunday, losing a large number of tanks in a battle a few miles east of Siversk, according to members of the military. The battle had halted the Russian offensive for a couple of days, and doctors had seen an easing in Ukrainian military casualties as a result, said a colonel working as the head of medical services at Kramatorsk military hospital.

But the Ukrainian soldiers guarding checkpoints on the approaches to Siversk said they had seen little let up and that any lull was bound to be short-lived.

By midafternoon Tuesday, the two sides were trading artillery over Siversk. Ukrainian positions fired mortars at spaced intervals, and Russian troops responded with a barrage of shells that whistled overhead as New York Times journalists were visiting, landing in the wheat fields beyond.

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