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As Russia destroys Donbas, people leave homes in mandatory evacuation drive (PHOTOS)

by Asami Terajima August 14, 2022 9:11 PM 5 min read
A firefighter walks on the ruins of a school destroyed by Russian rockets in Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast, on July 21, 2022. (Alex Chan Tsz Yuk)
This audio is created with AI assistance

Editor's note: The photos were provided by Alex Chan Tsz Yuk, a Hong Kong-based photojournalist, now covering the war in Ukraine.

Heavy Russian bombardment continues to pummel eastern Donetsk Oblast nearly six months into the full-scale war.

Russian forces have fired missiles and shells across the entire region, indiscriminately killing civilians en masse. Incessant strikes destroyed homes and flattened cities in Ukraine's industrial heartland, known as the Donbas.

With Russia having made limited territorial gains, its military keeps turning to its mass firepower to inflict more civilian casualties. Following Russia’s capture of Lysychansk in Luhansk Oblast in early July, triggering the fall of the entire province, Kremlin forces have focused on sealing gains in the rest of the Donbas, seizing approximately 78 percent of the region which encompasses Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

Also read: As Ukraine withdraws from Sievierodonetsk, Battle of Donbas enters next phase

Now, in mid-August, a major battle is unfolding in Pisky, once a suburb of Russian-occupied Donetsk, with both Ukraine and Russia claiming to have control over parts of the embattled settlement. Heavy fighting is also occurring several kilometers north, in the town of Avdiivka, with Ukrainian positions being bombarded nonstop.

As the situation worsens, Ukraine carries out a mandatory evacuation from Donetsk Oblast. President Volodymyr Zelensky urged all remaining residents in the war-torn region to flee their homes.

“The sooner it is done, the more people leave Donetsk region now, the fewer people the Russian army will have time to kill," Zelensky said in an evening address on July 30.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Aug. 11 that all people evacuated from front-line settlements will be provided with free housing and social guarantees. Vereshchuk added that, currently, mandatory evacuation is carried out only in Donetsk Oblast, but later it may be extended to other regions where the situation might get worse.

Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Aug. 12 that there is an estimated 350,000 people still living in the region – a fifth of the pre-war population of the Ukrainian-controlled parts of the oblast. The figure includes about 50,000 children, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the President's Office.

Over 100,000 Mariupol residents trapped in dire conditions under Russian occupation

Life is grim for the remaining residents of Donetsk Oblast as Russia turns their hometowns into hotspots of the war. Many cities and towns have been cut off from electricity, gas, and running water. The remaining civilians often rely on humanitarian aid.

On Aug. 12, Russian forces launched air and artillery strikes on 11 settlements in the region, including Kramatorsk, Bakhmut, and Avdiivka, the police reported.

The police said that the attacks either destroyed or damaged 94 residential buildings, a kindergarten, a school, and two manufacturing plants. At least eight people were killed as a result of the attacks.

Governor Kyrylenko said that as of Aug. 14, at least 730 people have been killed and at least 1,890 others have been injured in Donetsk Oblast. But he emphasized that these are not final numbers since the casualties rate remains unclear in Russian-occupied Mariupol and Volnovakha which were flattened by Russian forces.

Local officials estimated that the number of civilian casualties in Mariupol could have reached 20,000 people.

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