Donetsk, eastern Ukraine – Unlike Pisky or Avdiivka, two hot spots on the eastern Ukrainian front line close to the airport, Zenit is not the name of a town. It is a military defence position that was once the point of anti-aircraft defence systems of the Donetsk airport.The soldiers are under orders to hold the position and not retreat.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine has claimed the lives of nearly 8,000 people since it started in April 2014, according to the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights. This number includes Ukrainian armed forces, civilians, and members of the opposing armed groups. More than 17,811 people were injured and over 1.3 million have been displaced.
The two ceasefire agreements signed in Minsk had no real effect, as the reality on the front lines was not peaceful, and people continued to die.
Zenit looks like a post-apocalyptic film set. The few buildings that remain standing are full of bullet and mortar holes. The grass fields are graveyards for rusty armoured vehicles and skeletons of cars. The ground is littered with craters from grad missiles and mortar rounds. The trees are bare, their branches shaved off by flying shrapnel.
After months of continued ceasefire violations, Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists agreed to strive for an end to all truce violations starting September 1. On the evening of September 1, the front line was silent. In Zenit, there was only gunfire, no mortars – only “provocation”, as the soldiers call it.