People are dazed as they line up in front of charred buildings to seek help. These are the sights of a Ukrainian town, which has taken back control from Russian forces at least temporarily.
Trostyanets was retaken by Ukrainian forces shortly after it was announced that the northeastern town of near the Russian border would be retaken. The Associated Press saw Monday a civilian landscape that had seen the worst of war.
The hospital had suffered extensive damage, and its windows were shattered with broken glass. The train station was damaged and had been shot. Residents were cautious about mines and walked carefully. They rode their bikes past mines and craters on the road. It is unknown how many civilians were killed.
Russian tanks were left lying in the forest, broken and twisted. A red band was placed around the leg of one soldier. One soldier had a red band around his leg. The other had an arm over his head, as if he was snoozing on the leaves in the late afternoon sunlight. He was nudged by a Ukrainian soldier with his toe.
The red "Z" sign indicated a Russian truck. It had its windshield broken and was near ammunition boxes. Many boxes with artillery shells were found scattered around the town. Residents were curious and squinted into an open box of shells.
It is unclear where the Russian forces went or under what circumstances they fled. The town may not be free from them in the coming days. In his overnight address, President Volodymyr Zeleskyy stressed that tensions remain in the northeast of Ukraine, around Kharkiv and other areas.
The return of Ukrainian forces to Trostyanets is an encouragement for a country that hopes Russian forces will pull back, despite fierce resistance.
According to a senior U.S. defense officer, Washington believes that the Ukrainians have retaken Trostyanets. According to the official, who spoke under anonymity in order to discuss U.S intelligence assessments, the Russian forces were largely in defensive positions close the capital Kyiv and made little progress elsewhere in Ukraine.
Russia appeared to be reassessing its war goals late last week as its forces were stalled in certain parts of the country. It stated that its primary goal was to regain control of the Donbass in the east.
Trostyanets residents seemed to have lost their sense of normal after weeks of occupation and intense fighting.
Vitali Butski, a resident, said that he has not seen much personally. Yet, three missiles struck his house. He said that many buildings are now damaged beyond the railway station.
He was wrapped up against the cold wind and he ventured out with others to see what was left behind.
The square in front the train station was littered with unexploded ordnance. In a sign that Russian forces were trying to defend their position, berms and trenches lined the square. Rooms were filled with army uniforms and boots in a bunker beneath the station.
There were patriotic messages and drawings on the walls, including one that read "Thanks for your peace, soldier" in Russian. Another room was used as a clinic with unused drips and desks converted into beds. However, there was no sign or blood.
You could see a number of Russian food rations packed in the rubble. Residents indicated that soldiers were still hungry.
One resident said that the thieves came to her house and took our pickles, cucumbers, lard, and potatoes in the evenings. She didn't give her full name.
She called the Russians "orcs" or goblin-like creatures. She said that there were also Militias from Donetsk, Luhansk and other regions. The whole town was occupied.
Residents now have some breathing space. They waited in line to receive aid and waved at passing Ukrainian tanks.
"As you see, there have been battles over the last month. Evgeni Kosin, an emergency service worker, said that projectiles were being hurled over and that people were afraid. They were without water and food. It was a terrible humanitarian situation. It is possible that things are improving now that there have been no shelling or flyovers in the last three days.