Vovchansk: life in the liberated city on the border with Russia.

The road from Kharkiv to Vovchansk currently takes about five hours. Before the full-scale Russian invasion, it was possible to get home by road in an hour and a half: the distance between the cities is 80 kilometers. Nowadays, the roads and bridges are destroyed, so you have to take detours with holes on the roads, which makes traveling by car like a roller coaster in an old minibus with broken shock absorbers.
Vovchansk was under Russian occupation for eight months. It was captured on the first day of the war. On September 11th, the Armed Forces of Ukraine recaptured the city.
The central streets look deserted at lunchtime: in a couple of hours of wandering around the city, we came across only a few passers-by. Before the war, Vovchansk had approximately 17,000 inhabitants.
“There are few people left, maybe 25% at most. Most of the people have not returned yet, because there is no heating or gas. The situation in the city remains tense as the demarcation line with Russia is four kilometers away. A difficult humanitarian situation due to a difficult road: in order to reach the territory of the district, as you have seen, you have to drive 150-160 kilometers on not the best route,” explains Oleksyi Kharkivskyi, head of the response sector of the patrol police.
“On September 11th, we entered the city. The residents were happy and greeted us with flags. Russians left the city without a fight and fled on the 10th. There is little Russian technique here. There was a lot of it in Chkalovske — in that direction, we entered through those villages. There is still a lot left,” says Oleksyi Kharkivskyi.
The de-occupation took place in several stages, says “Doc”, the commander of the military unit that liberated the city.
“We were standing in Kharkiv, on the other side of Siverskyi Donets. Gradually, my two platoons liberated the village of Mykolaivka, then Sosnovyi Bir, Semenivka. So by such clearings we reached Vovchansk and established ourselves here. In Mykolaivka, they were still standing, but here they were already running away quickly,” the soldier recalls.
Russian army continues to shell the city, but they are not trying to resume the attack on Vovchansk.
“Now the situation with shelling is not critical, but they happen almost every day. There are partial destructions of civilian objects, many houses are damaged, gas and water supply systems have been cut off. Shelling of the city is chaotic: the distance between hits is 500 meters. That is, they do not aim at any one object,” explains Oleksyi Kharkivskyi.
According to Doc, the city is strongly defended.
“There is nothing for them to do here, we are at home. Last week was hot. But together with the brigade, we gave them a certain fiery impression, and they began to behave modestly. They like bream, and we give it to them,” the soldier smiles.

Among the surviving apartment buildings, we notice a mutilated one. Instead of a balcony on the second floor, there is a gaping hole from a recent hit. This house was shelled twice, says local resident Volodymyr Bondarenko. Together with his wife, he came to check the apartment at the request of his friends.
“My neighbors left for Kyiv, their son-in-law was killed here. It happened a month ago, he just came home. The shell hit the ground, and the debris hit the window, killing him. He was the only one that was killed in the whole house. They burried him. And this man, interestingly enough, is Russian himself, a retired former officer. The second hit took place six days ago,” says Volodymyr.

Torture chamber at the factory and life under Russian occupation.

Russians turned the Vovchansk aggregate plant, located almost in the center of the city, into a torture chamber. According to locals, pro-Ukrainian people and ATO participants were kept there.
“Investigative actions were mainly carried out here, and then people were taken away in the direction of Kupiansk,” notes “Doc”.
Russians also detained Vovchansk resident Volodymyr Bondarenko. The man assumes that someone informed Russians that he participated in the anti-terrorist operation.
“They came to our home and started searching. They took my new uniform. They didn’t take a worn, washed one. I sat in their cell from morning to night. I won’t lie, it was scary: my eyes were blindfolded, and I didn’t know what was going to happen next: who was in front of me, where they were taking me. We chatted. They gave me my documents and phone back and released me,” the man describes the interrogation.
Recalling the days under occupation, Volodymyr grimaces.
“You are constantly under oppression. You go to the market – there are a lot of them, with automatic weapons, buying something valuable, walking around drunk. You have to go through the posts – not saying anything superfluous to them. Well, how would you feel here. “According to the conversations of the locals who communicated with Russians, there were soldiers from republics occupied by Russia “DPR” and “LPR” here,” says a local resident.

Source: Nakipelo.UA