Trail of destruction in southern Ukraine villages
Devastated by intensive Russian bombardment, the village of Zeleny Gai near the frontline in southern Ukraine looks empty -- except for a group of local men gathering to await an aid delivery.
The expected delivery "is the only reason why there are so many people out. Normally, this would be a ghost village," said Yury Seka, 33, a farmer like many in this fertile agricultural region.
Another villager, Alexander Zlydar, 38, said: "I can't remember the last time I slept in my own bed".
Previously caught up in the midst of the fighting, the village has had some respite since the frontline moved a little further to the southeast closer to the Russian-occupied city of Kherson.
But Grad rockets continue to fall intermittently as Russia focuses its war effort on the south and east of the country after retreating from the northern cities of Kyiv and Chernigiv.
During a particularly heavy bombardment on March 13, a 250-kilogram bomb dropped by parachute landed on the roof of Andriy Koshmak's house.
He pointed out the device, as well as the black streaks left by recent rocket attacks.
The 29-year-old said the bomb had likely drifted from its intended target because of strong winds.
Further along the road, the local school was turned into a pile of rubble by the bombing that day.
Lego pieces and textbooks could be seen in the ruins along with a parachute -- likely one of the ones used to drop the bombs on Zeleny Gai.
Women and children had already been evacuated from the village, but the head of the local council was killed at the school and the headmaster suffered serious injuries to his legs.
"Many people had come to seek shelter inside the school," Koshmak said.
"The Russians thought that some soldiers were hiding there, but it was only civilians".
- 'There was no pity' -
Further along the road, a mobile anti-aircraft battery lay destroyed.
"It's terrible. There was no pity for anyone," Koshmak said as he looked at what remained of the school which he attended for nine years.
The nearby city of Mykolaiv hosts around 1,000 inhabitants of surrounding villages, the mayor, Oleksandr Senkevych said last week.
While the situation in Mykolaiv remains precarious, with several air raid alerts per day, the situation in the villages around "is worse," he said.
Further south, on the road to Kherson, the village of Shevchenkove lies almost abandoned.
The police said the mayor of Shevchenkove is officially missing after being arrested by the Russian army during a humanitarian aid delivery.
Ivan Bolyakov, a 25-year-old with a ginger beard and a black hat, said he was the only one of 25 residents on his street who stayed behind.
"We arrested two looters in recent days. I have to watch out for what is happening in my village," said Bolyakov, as the wind shook the ruins of a nearby home that had recently been hit by a strike.