Looted and then liberated from Russian forces, the town of Trostianets in northeastern Ukraine comes back to life

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By Thomas of Istria

Posted today at 11:15 a.m., updated at 1:59 p.m.

The wooden door was smashed. The computers in the computer room were stolen. Others litter the ground, split in two, trampled. “The Russians had no more room to take them so they broke them”, sighs Irina Bondarenko, the headmistress of school number 5 in Trostianets. The city in northeastern Ukraine, located 30 kilometers from the Russian border, was occupied from the first day of the war, February 24. For a month, its 20,000 inhabitants lived under the rule of soldiers sent by Moscow.

This Thursday, April 7, in front of the school which distributes food and hygiene products, the faces are worried, tired but also relieved. “It is sure that it is better now”, releases a woman surrounded by her friends. “Everyone is cleaning up the city. We had a lot of damage. We just hope the Russians don’t come back. » A man, who came with his son, says he spent the month of occupation hidden in a bomb shelter. “When the Russians came to us, he said, they put us on our knees and checked that we had no traces of powder on our fingers, no military equipment. And then they stole our phones, our computers, and destroyed the doors and windows of our house. »

Many testimonials

These massive looting practices have been documented through numerous testimonies from residents of formerly occupied areas across the country. Valuables were also found on the bodies of killed Russian soldiers. On April 4, Hajun Project, a Belarusian opposition site, published a document concerning the delivery of stolen objects to Russia. The site published a three-hour video taken from the surveillance camera of a delivery service in Mazyr, in southeastern Belarus, in which Russian soldiers are seen sending electronic equipment, tools , clothes looted in Ukraine, to different regions of Russia. The territory of Belarus, to the north, has served as a rear base for Russian forces since the start of the war.

Irina Bondarenko, director of school No. 5 in Trostianets, Ukraine, April 7, 2022.
The acronym

Mme Bondarenko spent the whole month in Trostianets, cut off from the world. During the occupation, with others, the headmistress prepared bread which she distributed to the inhabitants because “the killer whales [le nom donné par les Ukrainiens aux forces russes occupantes, tiré de la trilogie du Seigneur des anneaux] stole everything from the supermarkets. There was nothing left for the people.” “The first week they behaved normally, they let people walk in the street, she says. But after that the Russians went somewhere else and they are guys from Donetsk [des séparatistes prorusses du Donbass] who came and they really acted as if they wanted to make us pay for the eight years of war in their region. » Another resident testifies to the kidnapping of her son-in-law, a former soldier who fought in 2014 against the separatists. The man was captured on March 16; Since then, the family has not seen him again and knows nothing of his fate.

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