Invasion: Ukraine Tackles Rebuilding Cities Destroyed, Despite Ongoing War
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The Kyiv suburb of Irpin was largely destroyed by fierce urban fighting in the first few weeks of the war in Ukraine. Now that Russian troops have been forced out, local authorities have invited in Ukrainian architects to reimagine how the urban areas might be rebuilt. When Ukrainian forces took back Irpin from Russian troops on March 28, the formerly wealthy suburb in the northwest of Kyiv was largely destroyed.
Weeks of fierce urban fighting left swathes of Irpin devastated. After Russian forces had departed, Ukrainian law enforcement officers reported that 885 buildings were completely destroyed, 2,738 partially destroyed and 8,651 had superficial damage.
There was damage to infrastructure too. To slow the Russian advance, Ukrainian forces had blown up the main bridge linking the suburb to Kyiv. Hospitals and schools had been hit by Russian attacks. Efforts began to clear Russian mines, reportedly planted in parks, playgrounds and in front of homes. So far, few residents have been able to return.
But on May 5, authorities started to imagine a new future for the suburb. “About 120 architects from all over Ukraine have arrived in Irpin to draft a strategy for the town’s restoration and development,” Oleksiy Kuleba, head of the humanitarian staff of the Kyiv Regional State Administration, said in a Telegram message, thanking those who accepted the invitation.
It is not unusual to start conversations about rebuilding even though fighting continues in other parts of Ukraine, says Dr Pierre Purseigle, Associate Professor at the University of Warwick (UK), and specialist in the history of war and urban catastrophes.
“In order to fight a war, you need to believe in your capacity to prevail, so thinking about reconstruction is just as important as thinking about the reasons why you’re fighting,” he says. “You’re fighting to defend your nation, but also you’re fighting to defend your capacity and your right to define your future, and that is what is at stake in Ukraine.”