Russian troops have left this Ukrainian village, but fear remains | Russia-Ukraine war News

As night fell in Tatiana Trofimenko’s village in southern Ukraine, she poured the sunflower oil that aid groups gave her into a jar and covered it with a wick. A lighted match and a makeshift candle were lit.

“This is our electricity,” said Trofimenko, 68.

It has been more than 11 weeks since Ukrainian forces regained control of her village in Kherson province from Russia. But the war in Kalynivske has always existed. At the height of winter, the remote area not far from the front lines operates without electricity or water. The sound of war is never far away.

Russian forces have withdrawn west of the Dnipro River, the river that divides the province, but they still control the east. A barrage of near-constant fire just a few kilometers away and the danger of leftover mines have left many Ukrainians too scared to venture outside. Fear cast a shadow over their army’s strategic victory.

However, residents have gradually returned to Kalynivske, preferring to live without basic services, dependent on humanitarian aid and under constant threat of bombardment rather than displaced people elsewhere. on their country. They say the stay is an act of defiance of Russia’s relentless attacks aimed at making the region uninhabitable.

“This territory is liberated. I feel it,” Trofimenko said. “Before, there were no people on the street. They are empty. Some people have been evacuated. Some people hide in their homes.”

“Now when you go out into the street, you see happy people walking around,” she said.

Russian forces captured Kherson Province in the early days of the war. The majority of Kalynivske’s nearly 1,000 inhabitants remained in their homes during the occupation. Most are too sick or old to leave. Others have no means of escape.

The Russians had left empty ammunition crates, trenches and tents in their rapid retreat. A man’s coat and underwear hung from a bare tree branch.

And with the Russians launching raids to regain lost ground in Kherson, it was sometimes hard for the people to feel the occupying forces had left.

“I was very scared,” said Trofimenko. “Sometimes I even scream. I’m very, very scared. And I’m worried about us being peeled again [the fighting] To start over. This is the most terrible thing that exists.”

Village deprivation is reflected across Kherson, from the eponymous provincial capital to the constellation of villages divided by the farmland that surrounds them.

The Ukrainian army recaptured the territory west of the Dnipro River in November counterattack. It has been called one of Ukraine’s greatest victories in the war, now in its 12th month.

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