The eastern province, 57% of which is occupied by Russia, has been at the forefront of war since 2014, when Russian-backed proxies seized the region’s capital city, also called Donetsk, as well as many other large towns.
Since Russia launched a full-scale invasion in 2022, this has been where many of the war’s most vicious and protracted battles have occurred.
“The enemy shells (the region) from 1,500 to 2,500 times a day,” governor Vadym Filashkin said in an interview on Friday, adding he believed Moscow was still aiming to capture the entire region.
“The enemy’s shelling is this dense, this heavy, almost every day.”
The governor said the Kurakhove power plant, one of the region’s few remaining large-scale sources of electricity generation, had been forced to close a week ago due to Russian shelling. He said this was part of a wider campaign.
“The enemy is trying to destroy critical infrastructure objects so that people find it difficult to remain in the region in winter.”
Filashkin said the town of Avdiivka, home to the largest coking plant in Europe and the target of a massive Russian assault since October last year, was “95-98% gone.”
“The enemy dropped about 200 guided aerial bombs on Avdiivka alone over the (last month). They are totally destroying it,” he said.
Local authorities say the number of civilians in the town has dwindled to less than 1,000. Filashkin said he was pleading with those remaining to leave for their own safety.
After a glide bomb recently hit an apartment block in the frontline town of Niu-York, it took 10 days to clear the ruins by hand and recover the bodies of five residents, as the shelling was too intense to bring in machinery.
“As soon as we began to bring in cranes and excavators to help people, the enemy began shelling.”
A tall, baritone-voiced figure dressed in black and carrying a holstered pistol, he had a background in law enforcement before serving as Donetsk’s deputy governor since 2019.
After the invasion broke out, he says he personally participated in about 10 evacuation runs from the town of Volnovakha until it was captured by the Russians less than a month into the invasion.
“There were a couple of times I didn’t think we would make it out of there,” he recalled after the interview.