Ukraine refugees flee Russian war for the second time – Donetsk region

With all eyes turned to Ukraine after February 24th, for many it was a discovery that Russian aggression against its neighboring country started back in 2014. After the occupation of Crimean Peninsula and turning it into a naval military base and installment of the puppet republics in Donetsk and Luhansk, Russia has been maintaining a frozen conflict for 8 years until the full-scale invasion.

For many Ukrainian cities in the eastern regions the destruction and violence it has brought is all too familiar – they have experienced it before, although on a lesser scale, in 2014-2015. Many of the local communities fought tooth and nail with the initial attempts to occupy Ukrainian territories beyond parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. One of these cities was Mariupol that survived a month of occupation back in 2014 to be liberated – and to be invaded and almost fully erased from the face of earth in 2022 by the Russian military. Many Ukrainians feel that the devastating degree of destruction that Mariupol was subjected to is, in a way, a revenge for the unsuccessful occupation of 2014. Russia failed to keep the city, while Ukraine, after recapturing it, has embarked on the ambitious journey to make it one of the most flourishing towns in the region – which now lies in ruins after the second Russian invasion.

Many other towns and villages have suffered the similar fate. Volnovaha was a place of heavy combat in 2014, with the battle for it being among the bloodiest in the early stage of the war. After having 8 years of peaceful lives, despite being close to the frontline since 2014, now the town is almost fully destroyed.

Kramatorsk, another city in the Donetsk region, has become known to the world after the tragedy – on April 8th, Russian missile struck a railway station where civilians were gathering for evacuation. Approximately 50 people, including children, were killed. Kramatorsk keeps fighting, however, it is not the first time for the town – back in 214 it was occupied by the Russians for 3 months, the experience that might have influenced resolve with which the local population resists another wave of invasion.

Ukraine In Flames #117 explores the lives in Volnovakha and Kramatorsk as cities that knew, perhaps, better than some other Ukrainian towns, what Russian war brings along. Dedicated to the Donetsk region, this episode will be followed by more of the kind, exploring other regions of Ukraine and their second experience of Russian invasion.


  • Pavlo Yeshtokin, journalist from Volnovakha
  • Oleksii Ladyka, journalist from Kramatorsk
  • Oleksandr Ivanov, volunteer from Kramatorsk.

UKRAINE IN FLAMES project is created by Ukraine Crisis Media CenterUkrainian Catholic University’s analitical center and NGO “Euroatlantic Course”.  We are aiming at searching a loud support for Ukraine in the war started by Russia on the 24th of February 2022.

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