Local resident Vladimir Odarchenko walks past his house damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the town of Popasna

Russian-held Popasna in Ukraine is a ghost town after end of siege

POPASNA, Ukraine (Reuters) – Two months after falling to Russian troops, the eastern Ukrainian town of Popasna that once was home to 20,000 residents has turned into a ghost town with little sign of life.

Ukrainian troops retreated from Popasna in May after Russian forces launched an offensive along most of Ukraine’s eastern flank, with intense attacks and shelling around the town in the Luhansk region.

On a visit to Popasna on Thursday by a Reuters reporter, the town looked deserted, with nearly all apartment buildings either destroyed or heavily damaged. Barren streets bore no sign of people or animals.

A former resident, Vladimir Odarchenko, stood inside his damaged home and surveyed the debris strewn across the floor.

“I have no idea what I’m going to do. Where to live? I don’t know,” he told Reuters. “Summer is fine, I can rent a tiny apartment, if I have enough money.”

Russia has continued to pound eastern Ukraine in an effort to gain control of the Donbas region. Moscow earlier this month captured Luhansk province, which makes up part of the Donbas.

Russia launched what it called its “special military operation” against Ukraine on Feb. 24, which the West says is an unprovoked war of aggression.

The conflict has laid waste to Ukrainian cities and caused 5.2 million people to flee the country, according to the United Nations.

(Reporting by Reuters, Editing by Deepa Babington)