KYIVSKYI DISTRICT

Donetsk, Ukraine - 2015

The Kyivskyi District, one the neighbourhoods nearest the Donetsk International Airport, is among the areas most severely affected by the war which broke out in April 2014 between the Ukrainian army and the militias belonging to the separatist forces from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) in the eastern part of Ukraine. The United Nations estimates that the conflict had already claimed more than 6,000 lives by the beginning of 2015.

As the bombings scaled up, those residents of Kyivskyi who were able left their homes to seek shelter with friends or family members in other areas of the city. Some fled to Russia or other regions of Ukraine. The few who remained behind, primarily elderly citizens with no economic means to move on, began to rebuild their homes despite the generally accepted conviction that the situation would deteriorate further in the coming months.

RPD loyalists patrolled the streets of Kyivskyi in search of looters who had taken advantage of the exodus to sack empty homes. Many of the homes had already been looted. Some had been destroyed by the bombs, while still others had been left wide open to show that there was nothing left to steal.

The frequency and intensity of the bombings remitted somewhat after a ceasefire was signed on 11 February 2015. But undeterred by the agreement, the sound of explosions continued to be heard in the streets of Kyivskyi. A major portion of the neighbourhood was seriously hit, as well as the bridge connecting the district with the airport.

Rubble, broken glass, empty streets, unexploded ordnance, death threats scrawled on storefronts, a curfew, elderly women cowering in freezing underground shelters, militiamen killing time at makeshift checkpoints, the sound of the blasts from the nearby fronts, the constant threat of explosives wiping out the streets again, and an intense feeling of abandonment are the impressions one received when walking through the area in March 2015 – the very same days in which the European press was welcoming a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.