A lifeline to the outside world. In a region under siege most farmers have fled advancing Russian forces.

Siversk District, Ukraine : One of the few civilians still driving on a road leading towards the front line, Oleksandr Chaplik skidded to a stop and leaned out of the car window to swap information with a villager.

He was taking supplies back to his village, which was still in Ukrainian hands but located in the path of the Russian advance.

''We are surrounded on all sides,'' said Mr. Chaplik, 55, a dairy and livestock farmer. ''It's the second month without light, without water, without gas, without communication, without the Internet, without news. Basically, horror.''

''But people need to eat,'' Mr. Chaplik said. '' I am a businessman. So I am doing my job.''

Mr. Chaplik owns 30 hectares, or 74 acres, of land near the city of Sievierodonetsk, where Russian and Ukrainian troops have been engaged in heavy street fighting in recent days. 

The countryside around his farm is under almost constant bombardment by Russian forces trying to encircle the easternmost Ukrainian forces  and lay siege to Sievierdonestsk and Lysychansk.

The roar of multiple rocket-launcher systems south of the farm rattled the windows and doors of his farm. ''Here, thank God, the guys are holding firm.''

But the war has come dangerously close. Craters from the bombs and artillery shells scar his fields. Against the wall of one of his barns stood the casings of a dozen rockets that Mr. Chapik had collected around the farm. The rockets delivered cluster bombs, he said, which still littered his hayfields.

''They want to be eating grass,'' he said as he walked past the stalls of his 35 dairy cows. ''But I cannot let the cows loose on this grass because of these bombs, and I am scared they will fall in the bomb craters.''

Mr. Chaplik is a fraying connection to the world for his increasingly isolated village, which he asked not be named to avoid retribution from Russian troops.

At a considerable risk to himself, he provides vital supplies and information, and keeps producing food as best he can.

Many other farmers have left the area but he said he could not. ''I can't leave the people,'' he said. ''If I leave, I will not be able to return to the village, I will not be able to look people in the eye.''

''If I do not prepare feed for my cows they will die this winter,'' Mr. Chaplik said. ''If I cannot cut the hay because of the cluster bombs in the fields and I need 12,000 bales of bales and I do not have the workers.''

He said it was more likely that Russian troops would seize control of the village and he would lose the farm that he built up over more than 20 years.

Separatist forces backed by Russia seized the area in 2014 but were pushed back after a few months.

But Mr. Chaplik does not expect President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to stop this time. Mr. Putin wants to seize a swath of the country from the city Kharkiv in the northeast to Odessa in the southwest, he said.

''He will not calm down,'' he said. '' He will fight for a year, two, three until he reaches his goal.''

The World Students Society thanks author Carlotta Gall. 


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