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A Ukrainian people, gripped by pain and mistrust

A Ukrainian people, gripped by pain and mistrust

Sitting on a bench on the porch of his house, Volodymyr Mukhovaty curses the alleged informants who helped Russia to bomb his town, an attack that left 59 dead, including his wife, son and daughter-in-law.

Authorities in Groza, a town in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, say two of their own – brothers Volodymyr and Dmytro Mamon – provided coordinates to Russia to carry out a devastating bombing on last October.

The attack targeted the place where a soldier’s wake was being held, and was one of the deadliest attacks in two years of war.

“They were our neighbors, my oldest son went to school with one of them, they were practically inseparable,” says Mukhovaty, referring to the two accused brothers.

Looking up at the sky, with teary eyes, he points out angrily: “How many people have they sent to the grave? So that? “Damn idiots!”

Six months after the bombing, the atmosphere in Groza is still full of pain, mistrust and suspicion towards some neighbors, perceived as pro-Russian.

The fate of this divided town is an example of the challenges that the inhabitants of places that were liberated after months of Russian occupation have to face.

In the case of Groza, the municipality fell into Moscow’s hands in the days following the invasion of Ukraine, and remained so until Kiev forces retook it in September 2022.

It does not seem likely that the two Mamon brothers will be brought to justice, at least for now. They both fled to Russia, where they built a “network of informants”according to the Ukrainian security services.

The few cars that enter Groza these days pass in front of a bus stop where a banner with a photo of Volodymyr Mamon is hanging. “The murderers have names, they killed 59 for Russian money”says the sign.

Resentment

Very close to that bus stop is the municipal cemetery, where there are dozens of freshly dug graves. They all have the same date: 10/05/2023, the day of the bombing.

About 44 of the dead were residents of Groza, which has a population of about 330 people, according to local authorities.

They were in a cafeteria on the main street, participating in the wake of a soldier from the town who had died in the war, when a missile passed through the building and reduced it to a pile of rubble.

Russia claimed it was a legitimate military target, something the United Nations rejected in a report.

Kozyr has returned to the town to pick up some documents at home, but says he doesn’t usually return because the place brings back too many memories.

The woman expresses her resentment towards the families she claims were pro-Russia and who stayed in Groza after Ukrainian forces liberated the town.

According to her, these families would once again turn against their own if Moscow’s forces, which are only 35 km away, recapture Groza.

“They have a Ukrainian flag in their room. But if something goes wrong, they will remove it and burn it,” points out.

A couple, who according to many neighbors sympathize with the Russians, told AFP that they support Ukraine.

“We have to kill them”

But suspicion and mistrust spread among the town, afflicted with grief. Olga Dontsova, who runs a grocery store, also believes that some could change their jackets again.

“Some people directly say: ‘I’ll sit here and wait for Russia to come back,’” comments a Dontsova customer.

“I think we should kill them, but no one would give me a gun,” replies Dontsova, 40, jokingly.

On this sunny spring morning, the town is silent, apart from the chirping of birds and the noise made by the few customers in the store and the cars passing by on the street. But this was not always so.

Dontsova remembers that, before, residents used to gather on the street on weekends.

“Some of us lit a bonfire, made porridge, fried sausages, played with the ball…”, the woman says.

“But now we don’t have any of that anymore. “Everyone simply stays at home,” He says, because when they get together the most painful memories tend to surface.

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Source: Gestion

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