Peasants between two artillery shots

After a five-day artillery battle between Ukrainian and Russian troops, Ivan Mishchenko’s court fell apart and was left empty-handed.

Artillery combat took place fiercely between the two forces, which were about 4 km apart. In the middle of two shells, Mishchenko’s farm with several dozen cows and 100 hectares of wheat turned into a bloody battlefield.

“Two kilometers to the right is the Russian army, two kilometers to the left is my country’s army,” said 66-year-old Mishchenko as his ranch near the village of Pochepyn, north of Kyiv, fell into disrepair.

Mishchenko stands amid a damaged house hit by shells near the village of Pochepyn on the outskirts of Kyiv on May 24.  Photo: Guardian

Mr Mishchenko stands amid an artillery shelled house near the village of Pochepyn on the outskirts of Kyiv on May 24. Picture: Guardian

“They shot at each other very hard, like in a video game. I stayed in the house for the first two days, then I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I had to leave. When I came back I was completely shocked. The house, the barn, the barn. , everything was destroyed. I left empty-handed,” he confided.

Hundreds of Ukainre farmers are in a similar situation to Mishchenko, where the conflict is wreaking economic havoc and threatening to trigger famine. The few hectares of wheat that Mishchenko left over could not be harvested due to a lack of fuel, and harvesting machines and other agricultural equipment were also destroyed by artillery fire.

Warehouses and ports across Ukraine store more than 20 million tons of grain and corn that cannot be exported because the Russian Navy is blocking the Black Sea region, a key export route for Ukrainian grain.

Ukraine exports most of its goods through seaports, but since Russia launched its military campaign, it has had to ship by train or through small ports along the Danube. As a result, the global wheat price rose 20% in March due to the direct impact of the supply conflict as the world faces increasingly serious food insecurity and malnutrition, and 42 million people are one step closer to starvation.

David Beasley, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, which feeds 125 million people and buys 50% of its grain from Ukraine, has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to open the way for ships from Ukrainian ports.

“It’s not just about Ukraine, it’s about the extremely poor people on the brink of starvation that we talk about so often,” he said last week.

Mishchenko is standing on the field with his son Roman.  Photo: Guardian

Mishchenko is standing on the field with his son Roman. Picture: Guardian

Mishchenko also said that “conflict will cause food shortages and hunger.” He said the hardest thing right now is that farmers don’t have the fuel to run the harvester.

“Another problem is fertilizers. Usually we import fertilizers from Russia and Belarus. Too little fertilizer means a 20-30% drop in crop production,” he said.

Before the conflict, Ukraine was one of the largest grain stores in the world, exporting 4.5 tons of agricultural products via seaports each month, including 12% of the world’s wheat, 15% of corn and half of the world’s sunflower oil.

Last year, Ukraine produced 33 million tons of wheat and exported 20 million tons, becoming the sixth largest exporter in the world. According to satellite analytics firm Kayrros, which uses artificial intelligence combined with satellite data to monitor commodities, Ukraine’s wheat production this year is expected to fall by at least 35% from 2021.

“I don’t know how to live here,” Mishchenko said. “The government doesn’t have the money to help us rebuild the farm. All the money goes to the military.”

Shells from Russia and Ukraine destroyed the grain store and the house where he lived with his wife and son Roman, 42. At least 20 cows were hit by shells, the bodies were still in the barn. The stables were also destroyed. Cattle that survived were emaciated because the hay was burned.

The conflict not only destroyed Mishchenko’s livelihood, but also deprived him of his son-in-law, who volunteered for the army and died defending Marakiv.

Like many Ukrainian farmers, he had to start all over again. A few days ago he started a crowdfunding campaign hoping to get back to work as soon as possible.

The destroyed tractor of the Mischenko family.  Photo: Guardian

The destroyed tractor of the Mischenko family. Picture: Guardian

When Mischenko and his wife bought the property in the early 1990s, they only had a trailer with a mobile home attached. Today, this mobile home is the only building that survived the shelling and became the residence of Mishchenko and his son.

“Thirty years after I built these, I’m back to the Trailer House,” he said. “My whole life, everything I built with my hands for 30 years was destroyed in one fell swoop.”

Hong Hanh (Corresponding AFP/Reuters/Guardian)