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Waiting For The Next Clash In Donbas

Six kilometers from the separatist-controlled city of Horlivka, Ukrainian forces of the 17th Army Battalion are holding their positions in the small town of Dzerzhynsk. The soldiers say that machine guns and mortar strikes can be heard almost every night, and that separatist fighters have approached within a few hundred meters of their camp. Their time is spent waiting for their next orders, or the next outbreak of violence. (Photos by James Sprankle)


A soldier of the Ukrainian Army's 17th battalion readies a DShKM antiaircraft gun near the town of Dzerzhynsk.
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A soldier of the Ukrainian Army's 17th battalion readies a DShKM antiaircraft gun near the town of Dzerzhynsk.

An old sign for Dzerzhynsk is scarred by bullet holes.
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An old sign for Dzerzhynsk is scarred by bullet holes.

Soldiers attach grenades to sticks during a training exercise on disarming booby traps.
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Soldiers attach grenades to sticks during a training exercise on disarming booby traps.

Soldiers from the 17th Battalion take part in a grenade drill at a front-line position near Dzerzhynsk and Horlivka.
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Soldiers from the 17th Battalion take part in a grenade drill at a front-line position near Dzerzhynsk and Horlivka.

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The shelter where soldiers sleep is also a weapons cache.
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The shelter where soldiers sleep is also a weapons cache.

A commander from the 17th Battalion walks along a water pipe that was hit by a mortar a few weeks ago. Before the hole was fixed, men took showers under the ruptured pipe.
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A commander from the 17th Battalion walks along a water pipe that was hit by a mortar a few weeks ago. Before the hole was fixed, men took showers under the ruptured pipe.

A mural of Moscow in winter decorates the side of a building in the center of Dzerzhynsk. A year ago, this was the scene of heavy fighting between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.
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A mural of Moscow in winter decorates the side of a building in the center of Dzerzhynsk. A year ago, this was the scene of heavy fighting between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.

The burned-out interior of the Dzerzhynsk regional administration building
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The burned-out interior of the Dzerzhynsk regional administration building

A large crater from heavy artillery that struck 10 days earlier near a checkpoint
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A large crater from heavy artillery that struck 10 days earlier near a checkpoint

The Mothers' Memorial in Dzerzhynsk is dedicated to the sons and husbands who died during World War II.
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The Mothers' Memorial in Dzerzhynsk is dedicated to the sons and husbands who died during World War II.

Almost every military post has a pet or two.
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Almost every military post has a pet or two.

Soldiers from a civil-military cooperation unit (CIMIC) joke with soldiers of the 17th Battalion as they pick up donated uniforms.
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Soldiers from a civil-military cooperation unit (CIMIC) joke with soldiers of the 17th Battalion as they pick up donated uniforms.

The Dzerzhynsk sign has been painted with the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
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The Dzerzhynsk sign has been painted with the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

A commander surveys a road that leads to separatist-held territory.
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A commander surveys a road that leads to separatist-held territory.

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