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Posted on Feb 10, 2015

War Is Hell: Pictures From The Front Lines Of Ukraine

Photographer Max Avdeev reports from eastern Ukraine for BuzzFeed News to capture the catastrophic effects of the ongoing war on the region.

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For the last three weeks, Russian-backed rebels have advanced into government-held territory in eastern Ukraine, leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake. The conflict, which has raged since April, has claimed more than 5,000 lives and displaced over a million people, according to the United Nations. Ukraine's and Russia's presidents are holding a summit on Wednesday in Minsk that European leaders say is the last chance to stop the violence from spiraling into total war.

Last week, rebels took over Vuhlehirsk, a formerly sleepy coal-mining town 38 miles north of the rebel stronghold, Donetsk. When BuzzFeed News visited on Sunday, the town had been all but completely destroyed by weeks of intense artillery bombardments. Only the poorest and most vulnerable locals remain.

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

Empty shell casings outside Yenakieve, a rebel-held town 10 miles south of Vuhlehirsk. The war has been dominated by retrograde artillery exchanges in recent months: Ukrainian officials say shelling accounts for 70% of casualties among government forces.

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

The remains of a house hit by a shell in Kondratiivka, outside Vuhlehirsk.

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

A group of residents attempting to leave Vuhlehirsk.

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

The remains of a tank outside the remains of an apartment building in Vuhlehirsk.

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

A local resident walks her dog past the remains of a tank in Vuhlehirsk.

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

A courtyard in Vuhlehirsk.

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

Viktor Fomenko, 61, shows off his Soviet passport. "I haven't been able to get a Ukrainian one for 23 years, and now they'll never give me one."

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

Rebels captured an abandoned mine outside Vuhlehirsk on Saturday.

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

The rebels are motley volunteers from Russia who have been serving in the Donetsk People's Republic's 6th Storm Brigade since April last year.

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

A rebel nicknamed "Iron" commands the brigade. "We're not going to stop until we get to Kiev."

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

A rebel fuels a stove with coal from the mine.

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

Rebels discuss coordinating artillery fire.

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

"Hulk," 35, came to Ukraine in August after seeing Russian TV coverage of the violence and deciding he had to do something. "I couldn't just sit at home."

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

"Quiet One," 33, left his wife behind in Russia to fight in Ukraine. "She said, 'If you go, I'll divorce you,' so I said, 'Fine, fuck it, divorce me, then.'"

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

"Quiet One," "Rebel," and "Poloz" now share a house in Vuhlehirsk they captured from Ukrainian national guardsmen.

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News
Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

"My first priority is to stay alive," Hulk says. "And after that, to win."

Max Avdeev for BuzzFeed News

Rebels firing unguided Grad rockets from Kondratiivka on Sunday. Rights groups say that using the notoriously unguided weapons in populated areas is a war crime.

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