A member of the Donbass Battalion, a pro-Ukraine militia, picks up his weapon after taking cover in a field near a Ukrainian military checkpoint on May 21, 2014 in Dobropillya, Ukraine.

Members of the pro-Russia Vostok Battalion stand over the body of a pro-Ukrainian militia fighter on May 23, 2014 in Pisky, Ukraine. At least eight people between the two sides, including one civilian, were killed in an early morning firefight when the Donbass Battalion, a pro-Ukraine militia, attacked a Vostok Battalion checkpoint in the nearby town of Karlivka.

People wave the flag of the Donetsk People’s Republic as a group of pro-Russian protesters marches past after occupying the military prosecutor’s office on May 4, 2014 in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Relatives grieve at the funeral of Yulia Izotova, a 21-year-old nurse who was killed in fighting between pro-Russian protesters and the Ukrainian military, on May 5, 2014 in Kramatorsk, Ukraine.

Men stand next to barricades outside the regional administration building, which is occupied by pro-Russian protesters, on May 4, 2014 in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Pro-Russian protesters march toward the military prosecutor’s office on May 4, 2014 in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Mourners process with the casket of Elena Ott, 42, from her family’s house to a local cemetery on May 16, 2014 in Starovarvarovka, Ukraine.

Pro-Russian protesters occupy and ransack the military prosecutor’s office on May 4, 2014 in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Barbed wire blocks a street outside the occupied regional administration building, which serves as the local headquarters for pro-Russian activists, on May 8, 2014 in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Mourners fill in the grave of Elena Ott, 42, on May 16, 2014 in Starovarvarovka, Ukraine.

A member of the Vostok Battalion, a pro-Russia militia, stands guard in an intersection on May 20, 2014 in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Residents of the Ploshchadka neighborhood, which has been heavily bombarded in recent days, await an escort from pro-Russia rebels to leave the neighborhood on Wednesday, July 30, 2014 in Donetsk, Ukraine.

A new recruit has his hair shaved at a training camp for the Donbass Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian militia, on May 19, 2014 in Dnipropetrovsk Region, Ukraine.

Relatives of Alexey Vorobyov mourn over his body on May 12, 2014 in Mariupol, Ukraine.

Recruits walk to a firing range to practice shooting guns at a training camp for the Donbass Battalion, a pro-Ukrainian militia, on May 19, 2014 in Dnipropetrovsk Region, Ukraine.

Friends and relatives grieve over the body of Aleksandr Politov, a pro-Russia militia fighter who was killed when his group attacked a Ukrainian military checkpoint two days earlier in the village of Blahodatne, outside the occupied city administration building on May 24, 2014 in Horlivka, Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldiers who were wounded earlier in the day during an attack on a military checkpoint by unknown forces are transfered to ambulances on May 22, 2014 in Volnovakha, Ukraine. Authorities reported fifteen soldiers were killed and 31 injured.

A pro-Russia rebel eats borscht at a camp by a checkpoint on the outskirts of the city on Monday, July 28, 2014 in Horlivka, Ukraine.

A train traveling from Donetsk to Moscow, away from areas with heavy fighting, departs on Monday, July 28, 2014 in Yasinovataya, Ukraine.

Students at School 68 take part in a drill in which they pratice what to do in case of shelling on February 6, 2015 in Mariupol, Ukraine. On January 24, shelling just nearby killed 31 people and injured over 100, prompting the school to increase the frequency of the drills to daily instead of weekly.

A woman walks past the body of a man killed on the sidewalk when a rocket or mortar struck the road on January 30, 2015 in Donetsk, Ukraine. At least five people were killed in a separate attack nearby when a rocket struck the parking lot outside a center for the distribution of humanitarian aid.

A pro-Russian rebel, released as a prisoner of war during a prisoner exchange with Ukrainian forces, walks between opposing front lines back to rebel territory on February 21, 2015 in Novotoshkivske, Ukraine. Ukrainian forces withdrew from the strategic and hard-fought town after being effectively surrounded by pro-Russian rebels, though fighting has caused widespread destruction.

Rebel fighters relax inside a house in which they live behind a front-line position on January 31, 2015 in Gorlovka, Ukraine. Fighting in Ukraine has intensified over the last week, with rebels declaring the end of a September ceasefire.

Hot soup is served to people in need of a free meal on Thursday, October 16, 2014 in Donetsk, Ukraine. Many older residents have not received pension payments in months and no longer have enough money to buy food.

Alla Kozikova, 81, climbs out of the basement shelter in which she and some of her neighbors have been living for days on February 3, 2015 in the Petrovsky district of Donetsk, Ukraine. The neighborhood has been under heavy shelling for the past four days, and a brief pause allowed a few residents to leave their basement hiding places for some fresh air.

People displaced by fighting in the town of Debaltseve gather in a tent where they can receive a hot meal at the train station on February 7, 2015 in Slovyansk, Ukraine. Many civilians have been evacuated from Debaltseve and brought to Slovyansk, where they are either given a free onward ticket or housed in a train until they can make further plans.

The tank assembly line at the Malyshev Tank Factory on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

A Ukrainian soldier lights a cigarette while his unit’s tank is repaired on a roadside leading out of Debaltseve on February 19, 2015 in Artemivsk, Ukraine. Ukrainian forces have begun withdrawing from the strategic and hard-fought town of Debaltseve after being effectively surrounded by pro-Russian rebels.

Local residents sit in the dark during a power outage in an underground bomb shelter on January 29, 2015 in the Petrovskyi district of Donetsk, Ukraine. The neighborhood has been shelled heavily in the past few days, forcing many people back to the shelters they first fled to in the summer.

An ambulance driver named Tariel, a Ukrainian Army medic, collapses in pain after receiving a shrapnel wound to the arm during shelling near a medical treatment point for Ukrainian fighters on February 8, 2015 in Debaltseve, Ukraine. Fighting between pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian forces there over the past two weeks has dealt steady casualties to Ukrainian fighters and civilians.

A boy that is part of a youth military regiment shows his friends his technique for marching while holding the flag of the self-declared independent republic of Novorossiya on Orthodox Easter, Sunday, April 12, 2015 in Donetsk, Ukraine.

A television shows an image of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at a base of the pro-Ukrainian Dnipro-1 battalion known as The Bridge near ongoing battles for the town of Pisky on March 19, 2015 in Pervomaiske, Ukraine.

A fighter for the Dnipro-1 battalion, a pro-Ukrainian militia, sits in a front-line trench on March 20, 2015 in Pisky, Ukraine.

New recruits of the St. Mary’s Battalion undergo training on the beach at their base on the Sea of Azov on February 4, 2015 in Mariupol, Ukraine. The pro-Ukraine battalion is one of a few tasked with defending the port city, which was hit late last month by an artillery barrage that killed at least 30 people, from pro-Russia rebels.

The body of a woman who was killed by a rocket attack lays on a gurney in a hallway in Vishnevskogo Hospital on January 26, 2015 in Donetsk, Ukraine. The rocket hit the home of her daughter, her home, wounding her nine-month-old daughter and killing her mother.

Two girls share a hug at a distribution point for humanitarian aid at the local House of Culture on February 17, 2015 in Myronivskyi, Ukraine. A ceasefire agreed to by Ukraine and pro-Russian rebel forces has failed to prevent fighting in the nearby town of Debaltseve, where thousands of Ukrainian troops remain and whom rebels claim to have surrounded.

A stray dog searches through trash for food in the lobby of a municipal building on February 7, 2015 in Debaltseve, Ukraine. The Ukrainian-controlled town, surrounded on three sides by rebel forces, has been undergoing heavy shelling for more than a week, but a brief ceasefire allowed many residents to evacuate and others to simply venture out from their homes.

A Ukrainian soldier sits inside a medical treatment point for Ukrainian fighters on February 8, 2015 in Debaltseve, Ukraine. Fighting between pro-Russia rebels and Ukrainian forces there over the past two weeks has dealt steady casualties to Ukrainian fighters and civilians.

A man injured by shelling is tended to by his wife as he arrives at a polyclinic in the back of a van, where he will be transferred to an ambulance to be taken to a hospital on January 28, 2015 in the Petrovskyi district of Donetsk, Ukraine. The area, in the city’s southwest, is close to heavy front-line fighting in Marinka.

Pavel Shevchuk, a 38-year-old factory worker, lies in Vishnevskogo Hospital after being heavily wounded in the left arm when a trolleybus on which he was riding was struck by a rocket the previous day on January 23, 2015 in Donetsk, Ukraine. The attack killed at least eight people and injured more. After the rebels finally took control of the heavily contested airport in Donetsk from the Ukrainian Army, they have promised an offensive to extend their territory further.

Ukrainian soldiers from a unit based in Zaporizhia repair the bullet-shattered windshield of a truck after taking fire during their withdrawal from Debaltseve the previous day on February 19, 2015 in Artemivsk, Ukraine. Ukrainian forces started withdrawing from the strategic and hard-fought town of Debaltseve yesterday being effectively surrounded by pro-Russian rebels.

Targets used for weapons training by the Azov Brigade at one of the group’s training grounds on Saturday, March 7, 2015 in Kulykivske, Ukraine.

New recruits of the St. Mary’s Battalion undergo training on the beach at their base on the Sea of Azov on February 4, 2015 in Mariupol, Ukraine. The pro-Ukraine battalion is one of a few tasked with defending the port city, which was hit late last month by an artillery barrage that killed at least 30 people, from pro-Russia rebels.

Vika (L) kisses her friend Kolya (C) as fellow soldier Sergei drinks a beer at a local pizza restaurant after their unit withdrew from Debaltseve on February 19, 2015 in Artemivsk, Ukraine. Ukrainian forces have begun withdrawing from the strategic and hard-fought town of Debaltseve after being effectively surrounded by pro-Russian rebels.

Destroyed military equipment litters the road on February 20, 2015 in Debaltseve, Ukraine. Ukrainian forces withdrew from the strategic and hard-fought town after being effectively surrounded by pro-Russian rebels, though fighting has caused widespread destruction.

Pro-Russian rebels carry the flag of their self-proclaimed republic of Novorossiya past a damaged building on the central square on February 20, 2015 in Debaltseve, Ukraine. Ukrainian forces withdrew from the strategic and hard-fought town after being effectively surrounded by pro-Russian rebels, though fighting has caused widespread destruction.

Ukrainian soldiers cook sausage over a fire along the road leading to the embattled town of Debaltseve on February 15, 2015 outside Artemivsk, Ukraine. A ceasefire scheduled to go into effect at midnight was reportedly observed along most of the front, save for near the embattled town of Debaltseve.

Pavel Bocharov builds a casket for Yana Myasischeva, a one-year-old girl who was killed on January 27 by a shelling, on February 3, 2015 in Donetsk, Ukraine. The city government provides basic but free or low-cost caskets for victims of shelling or others who are no longer able to afford funeral expenses, the demand for which has increased significantly in past weeks as violence has flared once again.

Yeva, 10, walks in the Krasnopillia district at the end of the long trip from the Good News Evangelical Church to the home where she, her mother, and her grandmother are living with a family that is part of the church’s congregation on October 12, 2014 in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. Yeva and her family fled fighting in Luhansk. The United Nations has registered more than 360,000 people who have been forced to leave their homes due to fighting in the East, though the tru

A fighter who uses the name Uncle Vova, a member of the pro-Ukrainian Dnipro-1 battalion, rolls into position to fire a gun at one of the group’s bases known as The Bridge near ongoing battles for the town of Pisky on March 19, 2015 in Pervomaiske, Ukraine.

A soldier for the Donetsk People’s Republic at a front-line position in an abandoned school on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 in Zaitseve, Ukraine.

Vladimir Vertsanov, Danil Goncharenko, Petro Goncharenko, and Vladimir Iermilov, from left, take a break from shoveling coal for heating at the village school to gaze at a hole punched in the ceiling of the boiler room by a rocket the previous year on Thursday, February 11, 2016 in Troitske, Ukraine.

A front-line Ukrainian military position on Sunday, February 7, 2016 in Stanitsa Luhanska, Ukraine.

Miners make repairs 1000 meters underground at the Shcheglovskaya Coal Mine on Friday, March 25, 2016 in Makiivka, Ukraine.

Spilled coke at the Avdiivka Coke Plant on Tuesday, February 16, 2016 in Avdiivka, Ukraine. The factory produces coke from local coal for use in Ukrainian steel production.

Local residents wait outside along the road for aid from the ICRC to arrive on Friday, December 11, 2015 in Troitske, Ukraine.

Workers at the Avdiivka Coke Plant on Tuesday, February 16, 2016 in Avdiivka, Ukraine. The factory produces coke from local coal for use in Ukrainian steel production.

A student plays with a drum found amid items stored in the gymnasium of a school, which was hit by a shell earlier in the year and heavily damaged, on Friday, December 11, 2015 in Troitske, Ukraine.

A local resident holds a loaf of free bread delivered by the Good Word Protestant Church in need on Thursday, December 10, 2015 in Mariinka, Ukraine.

A statue of Vladimir Lenin lies on the ground after being removed from public display on August 31, 2015 in Mariupol, Ukraine. Since the Maidan protests, many Lenin statues were toppled either by pro-Ukrainian activists in a symbolic break with their Communist past and Russian ties, or else to comply with a recent law which bans the display of Communist or Nazi symbols.

Girls ride a roller coaster at the Mariupol Extreme Park, an amusement park on August 30, 2015 in Mariupol, Ukraine. Despite the front line being a relatively short distance away, Mariupol was lively on a warm summer weekend, with little evidence that people expect the fighting to advance this far.

Students outside the local school on Friday, December 11, 2015 in Troitske, Ukraine.

A family pointedly refuses to allow their children, including Andrei, age 7, and Nikolai, age 9, to be evacuated from the dangers of life on the Ukrainian-controlled front line on Saturday, February 13, 2016 in Zaitseve, Ukraine. The town itself is half controlled by Ukrainian forces and half by pro-Russian rebels, leading to regular fighting.

Exploded shells form a monument to those killed by fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels on Tuesday, February 16, 2016 in Avdiivka, Ukraine.

Alexei, a worker at the Avdiivka Coke Plant on Tuesday, February 16, 2016 in Avdiivka, Ukraine. The factory produces coke from local coal for use in Ukrainian steel production.

Eduard Basurin, the defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic, at the ruins of the Donetsk Airport on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 in Donetsk, Ukraine.

Local residents take boxes of food and supplies delivered by the ICRC on Friday, December 11, 2015 in Troitske, Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldiers outside the heavily contested town of Pisky on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 in Pervomaiske, Ukraine.

A tent where Ukrainian soldiers live at an artillery depot on Monday, December 14, 2015 near Slovyansk, Ukraine.

Teenagers hang out in the afternoon on Tuesday, February 16, 2016 in Avdiivka, Ukraine.

Priest Rostislav Morozov, left, leads parishoners in a service at the Church of Our Lady of Kazan on Sunday, February 14, 2016 in Pervomaiske, Ukraine.

A dirt track during a snowstorm on Sunday, March 20, 2016 in Novooleksiivka, Ukraine.

Sergei Korotun warms up before partaking in his daily health ritual of bathing in the icy local reservoir on Sunday, February 14, 2016 in Karlivka, Ukraine.

A pair of swans swim in a pool of water pumped out to keep the mine from flooding at the Shcheglovskaya Coal Mine on Friday, March 25, 2016 in Makiivka, Ukraine.

Students attend a landmine awareness training held by the Swiss Foundation on Mine Action at School #21 on Tuesday, December 15, 2015 in Scherbynivka, Ukraine.

Small pieces of flight MH17 litter the ground at the scene of the plane’s crash on Thursday, March 24, 2016 in Grabovo, Ukraine.

A miner works at the coal face 1300 meters underground at the Shcheglovskaya Coal Mine on Friday, March 25, 2016 in Makiivka, Ukraine.

Children attend a protestant church service at the Christian Help Center at the Church of the Transfiguration on February 20, 2016 in Mariinka, Ukraine. The Donetsk suburb has been the scene of some of the heaviest fighting recently between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels.

Workers at the Luhansk Power Station, a coal-fired power plant located only a few hundred meters from the front line, on Monday, February 8, 2016 in Shchastya, Ukraine. The plant has been shelled several times but continues to operate, providing electricity to both Ukrainian and rebel territories.

Fighters from the Donbass Battalion, who gave only their war names (from left Khats, Kazbeg, Sobol, and Yakut), and Sveta, second from left, who is not a fighter, relax at the group’s base on August 30, 2015 in Melekyne, Ukraine. Kazbeg is holding a small drone, which they use during fights to conduct reconnaissance. Many of the formerly autonomous battalions have recently been pulled back from the front line and replaced by regular Ukrainian soldiers, which has frus

Ukrainian soldiers in a trench on Monday, February 8, 2016 in Shchastya, Ukraine.

Miners at the end of their shift at the Zolote Coal Mine on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 in Zolote, Ukraine. The mine is one of the oldest in the region, having first opened in 1905.

A control room at the Luhansk Power Station, a coal-fired power plant located only a few hundred meters from the front line, on Monday, February 8, 2016 in Shchastya, Ukraine. The plant has been shelled several times but continues to operate, providing electricity to both Ukrainian and rebel territories.

Igor Novoselov, left, the mine manager, and other executives at the Zolote Coal Mine on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 in Zolote, Ukraine. The mine is one of the oldest in the region, having first opened in 1905.

A Ukrainian soldier looks from a farm building toward the nearby Kalmius River and rebel-held territory on August 29, 2015 in Chermalyk, Ukraine. Two days earlier, the farm was shelled by rebels based nearby, with a level of skill that the soldiers felt indicated they were being targeted by professional Russian soldiers rather than rebel irregulars.

Elena Boryasenko, director of Boarding School Number 1, closes the curtains in the auditorium after a presentation for students by the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action on safety around landmines and unexploded ordnance on Friday, February 12, 2016 in Slovyansk, Ukraine.

Diana, age 11, Elena, age 13, and Nikolai, age 9, listen as a military chaplain tries to convince their families to allow the children to move away from the dangers of life on the Ukrainian-controlled front line on Saturday, February 13, 2016 in Zaitseve, Ukraine. The town itself is half controlled by Ukrainian forces and half by pro-Russian rebels, leading to regular fighting.

A pontoon bridge replaces a destroyed one over the Kazionnyi Torets River on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 in Slovyansk, Ukraine. The original bridge was blown up when pro-Russian rebels retreated from the town after an advance by the Ukrainian army.

A miner covered in coal dust watches television after coming up from underground at the Shcheglovskaya Coal Mine on Friday, March 25, 2016 in Makiivka, Ukraine.

Soldiers from the 1st Mechanized Battalion, 14th Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Army at a front-line position on February 21, 2016 in Mariinka, Ukraine. The Donetsk suburb has been the scene of some of the heaviest fighting recently between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels.

Alina, who has been boxing for about five months, trains at the Shakhtar Palace of Sport on Wednesday, March 23, 2016 in Donetsk, Ukraine.

A picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin used for target practice at the base of the Donbass Battalion on Sunday, March 20, 2016 in Melekyne, Ukraine.

Pavel, an employee at the small local zoo, feeds raw chicken to one of the zoo’s two lions on Saturday, March 19, 2016 in Sartana, Ukraine. The animals are due to be moved to a new zoo being constructed in nearby Mariupol due to the dangers of fighting around Sartana.

Summer vacation rental homes that have been completely destroyed by fighting which has until recently consumed the village on the coast of the Sea of Azov but which is now controlled by the Ukrainian army on Saturday, March 19, 2016 in Shyrokyne, Ukraine.

First-year students at School 68 arrive for an assembly to welcome them on the first day of the new school year on September 1, 2015 in Mariupol, Ukraine. On January 24 of this year, shelling in the same neighborhood killed 31 people, all civilians, and while much recent fighting has been concentrated near Mariupol, a drop in ceasefire violations in the past few days has been credited to a desire to not interfere with the start of the new school year.

Two Ukrainian soldiers walk back to their positions from a trip to the store during a snowstorm on Saturday, March 19, 2016 in Pavlopil, Ukraine.

Brotherland: War in Ukraine by Brendan Hoffman

Since protests in Kyiv drove President Viktor Yanukovych from power in February 2014, Eastern Ukraine has been convulsed by a rebel insurgency, inflamed by Russia, that has evolved into a full-fledged war centered in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk – an industrial region known as Donbass.

At heart is a desire among the rebels for greater autonomy, out of widespread fear—justified or not—that Russian-speaking Ukrainians are at risk of political repression by the government in Kyiv. Russian propaganda has carried this storyline further, implying that the Ukrainian government is comprised of fascists and neo-Nazi Ukrainian nationalists. Russia itself has been widely accused of backing the rebels with weapons, cash, training, and fighters, prompting the deepest divide between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.

Ukraine’s economy has taken a massive blow. Huge expenditures on the war effort, combined with the loss of Crimea and much of the industrial output of Donbass, mean that international bailouts intended to stave off default may yet prove insufficient. Political reforms are inching along, corruption remains rampant, and the overall atmosphere of instability has kept away foreign investment.

Meanwhile, as always, civilians are falling victim to the indiscriminate effects of uncaring weapons. According to the United Nations, at least 9,333 people have died in the conflict as of April 2016.


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