Spectre of another conflict looms large for the ruined Ukrainian village of Shyrokyne

ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine reports from the deserted Ukrainian village of Shyrokyne

The really chilling thing about the village of Shyrokyne – apart from the biting wind coming of the Sea of Azov – is that it was killed off so recently. Its 2,000 residents were forced to abandon their homes this month just seven years ago. To me anyway, 2015 feels like the day before yesterday. That makes the ghosts of deserted Shyrokyne young indeed. It’s a grim warning from recent history. If coronavirus has taught us something about the fragility of our way of life, it’s a lesson the residents of this seaside resort had already learned the hard way. Unfortunately, Shyrokyne is strategically placed on the coast close not just to the breakaway region in the Donbas, but to Russia itself.

If Vladimir Putin orders his troops to advance beyond the line of control then Shyrokyne is likely to become a battlefield once more. This was one of the places where separatist and Ukrainian differences collided violently the last time there was war. Nearly all the 700 homes in the village are damaged in some way. The residents had to leave with just the shirts on their backs.

Thousands of people were forced to abandon their homes in Shyrokyne in 2015. Credit: ITV News

Their belongings are strewn all over the place. On what was a pleasure beach, the waves now lap against dragon’s teeth defences and barbed wire intended to impede any Russian landing. Half buried in the sand there’s what I initially think is a colander. Closer inspection reveals it’s actually a pot riddled with holes made by shrapnel. There are empty shell casings everywhere. Children’s dolls lie contorted or broken.

A child's doll lying in the dirt in Shyrokyne illustrates how deserted the village has become since the conflict. Credit: ITV News

We have to watch our step because a few years ago some of the residents returned to Shyrokyne to retrieve their belongings.

Two of them were killed when they walked into trip wires and detonated booby-traps. The Ukrainian soldiers based here have recently been on the receiving end of mortar fire unleashed by separatists on the other side of the nearby line of control that separates the breakaway region from Ukraine.

The Ukrainian soldiers based in the village have been on the receiving end of mortar fire. Credit: ITV News

Over the last week or so, there’s been a large increase in provocative artillery fire right along the 250-mile frontier. The separatists are getting free shots because most of the Ukrainians are under orders not to shoot back. Our politicians have repeatedly warned that any Russian invasion of Ukraine will result in an unmitigated bloodbath. Shyrokyne is proof they are correct. War kills people and places.