Ukraine-Russia War: Photos from the Border

David Guttenfelder traveled along Ukraine’s northeastern border twice in the months before Russian troops crossed again.

The invaders did not return. Not yet. But along the roughly 600 miles of northeastern Ukrainian border territory that The New York Times visited late last year and again in early spring, war never left.

Most of this area, in Kharkiv And Sumy The area used to be agricultural land. Now, one farm has hosted an anti-sabotage unit – made up of anti-Putin Russians, to avoid sending Ukrainian troops into Russia – in pre-dawn preparations for a cross-border raid.

The fields were too exposed to Russian fire for anyone to attempt harvesting. Instead, they are equipped with “dragon teeth,” concrete anti-tank barriers often tied together with cables and strung with barbed wire.

In 2022, Russian troops swept through the region and almost reached the doorstep of major cities such as Kharkov and Sumy. Then, before the end of the year, Ukrainian forces pushed them back across the border.

The Russian army begins a new attack in the Kharkiv region last month. But these villages, within 10 miles of the border, were always within artillery range.

Sirens could not provide enough warning time for a bombardment from this close range and air defenses could not repel it. People rely on humanitarian aid deliveries, and the long, cold wait for supplies takes place under almost daily shelling.

Drone and bombing attacks have intensified ahead of the new ground offensive.

And the Ukrainian army has been changing the landscape: new mazes of trenches and bunkers, more closed areas, vast fields and forests of mines. At checkpoints, nervous soldiers flew drones to scan approaching roads.

Soon, there will be nothing left to photograph but stray dogs and rubble, the mayor of a village within range of Russian artillery said.

The civilian government struggled to provide supplies and basic needs or persuade people to evacuate altogether. Schools teach remotely or in underground bunkers.

The war is bringing tangible change to a region where families often have members in both Russia and Ukraine, and where common faith and culture spread across borders. Even now, the border crossing remains open for civilians in the Sumy region.

In the village of Richky, about seven miles from the Russian border in the Sumy region, Father Bohdan Oprysko of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church said that after Russian attacks increased, few people were able to attend services. Now, “Only on holidays, like Easter, are churches crowded,” he said.

His two sons moved with their families to Poland before full-scale war began in February 2022. Father Bohdan and his wife also opposed their push to move abroad.

“It’s my hometown,” he said. “How can I go anywhere else?”

In some towns and villages, only a handful of people remain, mostly women and the elderly, with nowhere to go. Vovchansk, that became a battlefield again in May after Russian forces crossed the border in the Kharkiv region, which had about 2,000 residents in December, down from a pre-war population of about 17,000. It had clearly deteriorated in the spring.

The scars of invasion and bombardment have left some reclaimed settlements uninhabitable.

Russia’s new offensive on Kharkov begins perhaps at Ukraine’s most vulnerable moment since the start of the full-scale war – its forces stretched thin, its arsenal of weapons and ammunition depleted after months of delay by the country’s most important supplier, the United States.

Currently, More American aid is coming and the Ukrainian Parliament has change military recruitment regulations to try to recruit more troops. But Russia appears to be ramping up the pressure.

As they argued recently for more time To fire American-made weapons into Russian territory, Ukrainian officials have indicated the gathering of additional troops, including opposite the Sumy region.

Ukraine’s border region could be about to get more dangerous.

Yuri Shyvala, Dzvinka Pinchuk And Oleksandr Chubko Report contributions.


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