Ukraine: A forgotten war in Europe

It’s now three years since the uprising in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine. Since then, the Ukrainian army (supported by several nationalist militias) has been fighting Russia-backed rebels from the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.

The conflict, supposedly under a cease-fire since an agreement in February 2015, has been escalating during the first months of 2017, according to the latest reports. Yet the war remains mostly static, transforming the landscape into something resembling World War I, with trenches and machine-gun positions all along the contact line.

After three years, the only war in Europe doesn’t seem to be approaching an end. A powerful and bellicose Russia and the events going on in Syria and Iraq have relegated this conflict to oblivion, even for Ukraine’s European neighbors. In the meantime, according to the Ukrainian government, the war has left around 10,000 dead and 30,000 wounded, as well as 1.4 million internally displaced.

Text and photography by Manu Brabo/MeMo

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Observing enemy positions

An exhausted Ukrainian soldier reacts while observing enemy positions from a makeshift bunker at a position in a frontline around the village of Novotroitska, at the Mariupol sector in Donbas Oblast in Ukraine, in April 2017. (Photo: Manu Brabo/MeMo)

Frontline of Avdiivka

Damaged buildings are seen at the frontline of Avdiivka, one of the hottest areas these days, near Donetsk, in April 2017. The biggest coke factory in Europe is here, so Avdiivka has been a frontline since 2014. (Photo: Manu Brabo/MeMo)

Checking positions

A member of the an airborne unit of the Ukrainian army checks the frontline positions in Piski, near the Donetsk Airport in Ukraine in April 2017. (Photo: Manu Brabo/MeMo)

Outskirts of Marynka

A soldier of the Ukrainian army walks down a ladder while heading out from his position in a school on the outskirts of Marynka in Ukraine in April 2017. (Photo: Manu Brabo/MeMo)

Damaged hospital

A Ukrainian soldier walks near a hospital damaged by artillery of Russian-backed rebels in Marynka, Ukraine, April 2017. (Photo: Manu Brabo/MeMo)

Grenade launcher

A Chechen soldier of the Ukrainian army aims an automatic grenade launcher toward Russian-backed rebels from his position on the frontline in Marynka, Ukraine, April 2017. (Photo: Manu Brabo/MeMo)

Passing the machine gun

A militiaman of the Pravi sector helps a comrade to hold his machine gun in a house on the frontline of Marynka, Ukraine, April 2017. (Photo: Manu Brabo/MeMo)

Running for cover

A Ukrainian soldier runs for cover amid sniper fire from Russian-backed rebels on the frontline near Novotroitsk, in Donbass Oblast in Ukraine, April 2017. (Photo: Manu Brabo/MeMo)

Firing at Russian-backed rebels

A militiaman of the Pravi sector aims his machine gun toward Russian-backed rebels at the frontline outside Marynka in Ukraine, April 2017. (Photo: Manu Brabo/MeMo)

Easter Mass

A Ukrainian army priest conducts Mass during the celebration of Easter near the frontline in Piski, close to the Donetsk Airport, Ukraine, April 2017. (Photo: Manu Brabo/MeMo)

Head shaving

A Ukrainian soldier shaves a comrade’s head near the village of Novotroitsk, in Donbass Oblast, Ukraine, April 2017. (Photo: Manu Brabo/MeMo)

Damaged hospital

A Ukrainian soldier advances to his position within a damaged hospital in Marynka, Ukraine, April 2017. (Photo: Manu Brabo/MeMo)

Resting on the frontline

A militiaman of the Pravi sector rests on the frontline in Marynka, Ukraine, April 2017. (Photo: Manu Brabo/MeMo)

Saying goodbye

Private Vasily Petrovich’s wife cries by the body of her husband while Vasily’s relatives mourn at the graveyard of Berestivets, a tiny village 200km from Kiev in Ukraine, April 2017. (Photo: Manu Brabo/MeMo)

Unknown soldiers lost

Graveyard for unknown Ukrainian soldiers on the outskirts of Dnipro, Ukraine, April 2017. (Photo: Manu Brabo/MeMo)

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