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Scenes from Eastern Ukraine

Tim Judah
In late August, Russian-backed rebel forces launched a devastating counter-offensive against Ukrainian troops.

In late August, Russian-backed rebel forces launched a devastating counter-offensive against Ukrainian troops. They drove them out of border areas of both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine, retook areas south of Donetsk and advanced to within a few miles of the port of Mariupol. A ceasefire came into effect on September 5. It is holding in most areas, but not everywhere. Few have confidence that the fighting is really over and that both the Ukrainians on one side and the rebels and their backers from Russia on the other have not simply called half-time. I took the following photos while reporting for The New York Review over the past few weeks.

Mariupol beach.jpg

Tim Judah

August 29: Before the ceasefire, Mariupol, a city on the Sea of Azov with a population of roughly 500,000, was eerily quiet. Many had left in anticipation of the rebel advance. When there was shelling or rocket fire to the east of the city it could be heard on the beach.

Mariupol prayer.jpg

Tim Judah

August 30: At the eastern Ukrainian checkpoint leading out of Mariupol, a group prays for peace and the protection of the city. They said they were doing a tour of all the checkpoints. Then the priest, an army chaplain, blessed us.

Novoazovsk prisoners.jpg

Tim Judah

August 30: Three Ukrainian prisoners captured on August 27 when the rebels also captured the Novoazovsk border crossing to Russia. They were from the border guard service and being held in a storage room at the frontier. They seemed in good shape and said they were being treated well, but the rebels were present when were we talked to them.

armored truck.jpg

Tim Judah

September 3: The attempt by the Ukrainians to retake control of the town of Ilovaysk from the rebels ended in disaster. They were finally driven out at the end of August. They left behind this homemade armored truck.


Tim Judah

September 3: Just outside the village of Novokaterinivka, twenty-eight miles southeast of the rebel-held city of Donetsk: on the right is a destroyed APC. There are the remains of two Ukrainian dead in the wreckage and one hanging off the cables. For the Ukrainian side, the retreat from Ilovaysk and the destruction of the convoys in flight from there and elsewhere at the end of August will long be remembered as a catastrophic defeat and humiliation.

Novokaterinivka bus.jpg

Tim Judah

September 3: For retreating Ukrainians the sixteen-mile stretch of road from Ilovaysk to Novokaterinivka became the road of death. I counted sixty-eight destroyed vehicles. No one yet knows how many died.


Tim Judah

September 3: Two damaged Ukrainian tanks–now captured by rebel forces–in Novokaterinivka. Ukrainian troops identify their equipment with the white stripes seen on the front of the tanks.

Novokaterinivka shgn.jpg

Tim Judah

September 3: This woman’s house in Novokaterinivka was hit by a shell. Her son-in-law and grandson were injured by shrapnel and are in the hospital.

Savur Mogila.jpg

Tim Judah

September 6: One of the rebel soldiers guarding the stump of the once great Savur-Mogila monument that commemorated the Soviet capture of this strategic hill in 1943. Journalists are told not to take pictures that show the faces of rebel fighters. They drove the Ukrainians out of here on August 26.


Tim Judah

September 10: A rebel checkpoint on the road between Donetsk and Zugres. The flag on the left is the so-called “war flag” of Novorossiya, the territory the rebels want to carve out of south and east Ukraine. They have another state flag that is an adaptation of an old Russian imperial flag.

Tim Judah’s article on the catastrophic Ukrainian defeat at Ilovaysk, and the rout of its retreating soldiers on the road to Novokaterinivka, appears on the NYRblog.

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