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A man rides his bike past a destroyed Russian tank in Trostyanets, Ukraine. 

A man rides his bike past a destroyed Russian tank in Trostyanets, Ukraine. 

Photographer: Chris McGrath/Getty Images Europe

A Ukrainian Mayor Looks at Life After Liberation

The small town of Trostyanets survived 31 days of Russian occupation. “My task now is to show the horrors of this war,” says its mayor. 

Before Russian tanks crashed into Trostyanets in the first days of their invasion, the small northeastern Ukrainian town 20 miles from the Russia-Ukraine border was known mostly for its cluster of historic monuments, its chocolate factory and the innovative development strategies of its progressive mayor, Yuri Bova. Now the town is scarcely recognizable: Buildings have been shelled and looted, roads are mined, and the surviving population — 20,000 residents lived here before the war began — is reeling from 31 days of Russian occupation.

After the initial Russian advance into Ukraine stalled, Trostyanets became a staging area for hundreds of troops and their equipment. The number of civilians killed during the occupation is still unclear. Targeted by Russian authorities, Bova and other city leaders took shelter in a nearby village. Now that the Russians have departed and the theater of the war in Ukraine has shifted to the southeast, the mayor is taking on the task of helping the town back onto its feet. With most infrastructure damaged or destroyed and residents still traumatized and lacking services, that’s a mammoth undertaking. Bloomberg CityLab talked to Mayor Bova about life during the occupation, and what the recovery and rebuilding process could look like; the conversation has been edited and condensed.