On Ukraine’s frontlines, Europe’s forgotten war continues | Gallery News

On November 21, 2013, the Ukrainian capital Kiev experienced a wave of protests – later known as Euromaidan – which sparked a series of events followed by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and war. in the east of the country.

The 2013 protests came after then-President Viktor Yanukovych chose not to sign a deal that would have linked Ukraine more closely to the European Union, and instead opted for closer ties with Russia.

The protests were the subject of violent government repression, but culminated with the overthrow of Yanukovych in February 2014.

However, on February 27 and 28, 2014, pro-Russian gunmen took control of the predominantly Russian ethnic Crimean peninsula.

In April 2014, pro-Russian separatist activities spread to Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, escalating into armed conflict.

Years later, the war continues.

In the frontline village of Opytne, in the Ukrainian-controlled part of Donetsk, only 36 of the more than 1,000 people who lived there before the war remain.

Aleksandr, 86, was forced to live in his bathroom, the only place in his house where the walls remain intact.

“I hear shots every day,” he told Al Jazeera. “But I lost my only child and I have nothing more to lose. After all my neighbors ran away, I picked up the animals they left behind. I have twelve cats and dogs that will never leave me, ”he said.

The armed conflict has left a total of at least 3,393 civilians dead and more than 7,000 injured since 2014, according to the October 2021 report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Between January 1 and September 30, 2021 alone, 18 people were killed, including three children. As active fighting continues along the front line, the toll includes deaths and injuries linked to landmines and explosive remnants of war.

A serious humanitarian crisis along the line of contact also continues to affect civilians on both sides of the conflict.

According to the European Office for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) in Kyiv, 3.4 million people in eastern Ukraine are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 1.3 million elderly and 442,000 people with disabilities. They often face difficulties in accessing quality health care, social care and protection, adequate sanitation and coping with freezing winter conditions.

Many of these vulnerable people have no choice but to continue living in the war zone.

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