After pulling back its forces from around Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, Russia’s grinding campaign to seize the eastern Donbas region has increasingly focused on the battle for Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, twin cities on opposite banks of the Siversky Donets River.
Those cities, largely reduced to rubble and emptied out in waves of evacuations, have been called “dead cities” by President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, whose forces are trying to defend them at the street level.
But even where Ukraine has succeeded in pushing the Russians back, the scars of war linger. Around Ukraine’s two largest cities, Kyiv and Kharkiv, residents have been returning to streets lined by charred husks of buildings.
The battle is now converging on the eastern region, familiar ground for both Ukrainian and Russia-backed forces who have been fighting there, in trenches and with artillery, since 2014. Russia’s steady assault and Ukrainian efforts at counterattacks have led to yet another round of evacuations, as thousands flee the region in anticipation of an escalation in fighting.