MOSHCHENKA, Ukraine — The tanks are gone now, and the thousands of Russian soldiers who poured into northern Ukraine in February have retreated back across the border. But fear still prevails in Moshchenka, a quiet village only six miles from Ukraine’s border with Russia and Belarus.
In the distance, Russian artillery shells rock the neighboring towns every day. Their explosions send a shudder through residents who lived through weeks of Russian occupation and have not forgotten the intimidating presence of Moscow’s army as it marched by on the way to Kyiv.
“We are scared of every sound,” said Kateryna Krasnomirova, who is living in temporary accommodation in Moshchenka because her home in Senkivka, even closer to the border, is being shelled daily. “We are living in terror.”
By the beginning of April, Ukraine had pushed the invading forces away from Kyiv and back over the Russian border, its biggest success of the war and a symbol of the country’s resolve. But for villagers in the region, the retreat did not deliver a sense of security — or even a return to normal life.
Except for the absence of Russian troops, there is little to suggest that this is not a war zone. Ukrainian guards and soldiers regularly patrol the border. There are checkpoints every few miles along all the north-south roads. Plots of farmland are marked as minefields, and mazes of trenches fan out in several directions from each checkpoint. At the entrance to Moshchenka, anti-tank obstacles fashioned from local birch trees and barbed wire guard the checkpoint.