With the enemy close and tensions high, some vigilantism emerged. Residents beat an apparently intoxicated man who had started a fire with a cigarette.

The deputy mayor, Oleksandr Marchenko, said in an interview that Russians were closing in from three sides about six miles outside town, pointing to smoke from burning villages nearby. An outdoor market was reduced to a tangle of twisted sheet metal from obliterated stalls. In one backyard, a body lay under a sheet beside a fresh shell crater.

The fighting in the countryside between the Donbas towns, in contrast, has been a war of small steps that Ukrainian forces say are mostly in their favor. Soldiers are still dying every day, but Russia’s once-punishing artillery barrages targeting front lines have petered out, compared to their earlier furious pace.

On a recent, sweltering summer morning, Sgt. Serhiy Tyshchenko walked a warren of trenches dug into a tree line, tracing his troops’ slow advance on a southern rim of the eastern front line.

The focal point of the war has moved elsewhere, he said. “Our position is not a priority for us or for them,” he said.

He advanced by sending troops crawling on their stomachs at night among the roots and leaves of acacia trees, along three parallel tree lines beside wheat fields. Each time, they dug new trenches, gradually pushing back the Russians.

When he reached the former Russian line, a panorama of garbage emerged: Water bottles, empty cans of fish, plastic bags and discarded ammunition boxes lay everywhere. Flies buzzed about.

“They don’t care” said Sergeant Tyshchenko, “because it’s not their country.”

Yurii Shyvala contributed reporting from Sloviansk and Bakhmut, Ukraine, Maria Varenikova from Kyiv, Ukraine, Emma Bubola from London, Anastasia Kuznietsova from Mantua, Italy, and Alan Yuhas from New York.

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The Children of War

No victim of war emerges without suffering some kind of loss: A home eviscerated. A loved one vanished. A life snatched away.

Yet no one loses as much to war as children — scarred by its ravages for a lifetime.

In Ukraine, time is dwindling to prevent another “lost generation” — the oft-used expression not only for young lives taken, but also for the children who sacrifice their education, passions and friendships to shifting front lines, or suffer psychological scars too deep to be healed.

The online ticker at the top of a Ukrainian government page, “Children of War” flickers with a grim and steadily rising tally: Dead: 361. Wounded: 702. Disappeared: 206. Found: 4,214. Deported: 6,159. Returned: 50.

“Every one of Ukraine’s 5.7 million children have trauma,’’ said Murat Sahin, who represents the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, in Ukraine. “I wouldn’t say that 10 percent or 50 percent of them are OK — everyone is experiencing it, and it takes years to heal.”

According to humanitarian agencies, more than a third of Ukrainian children — 2.2 million — have been forced to flee their homes, with many of them displaced two or three times, as territory is lost. Over half of Ukraine’s children — 3.6 million — may not have a school to go back to come September.

Yet even with war moving into its sixth month, children’s advocates say there is time to make meaningful changes to how young people emerge from the conflict.

In Lviv’s maternity wards, mothers pray that the fighting ends before their infants are old enough to remember it. In eastern Ukraine, activists search for children who disappeared across the front lines. Across the country, aid workers and Ukrainian officials are scrambling to repair bombed-out schools and start psychological support.

“We believe in the resilience of children,” said Ramon Shahzamani, the chairman of War Child Holland, a group that focuses on psychological and educational support for children in conflict zones.

“If you’re able to reach children as soon as possible, and help them deal with what they have experienced and what they have seen,” he said, “then they are able to deal with their emotions.”

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

That resilience is evident in the way that children have adapted their daily lives — scribbling drawings in crayon and paint on the wall of a dank basement where they are held captive, or inventing a game based on the frequent checkpoint stops they are subjected to. They mimic the grim reality they witness in the war, but also find ways to escape it.

In the Donbas, a 13-year-old girl named Dariia no longer flinches, or runs, when a shell hits nearby, so accustomed is she to the terror that erupts daily.

Even so, there is the cost of unhealed psychological trauma. And the effects are not only mental, but also physical.

Children exposed to war are at risk of “toxic stress,” a condition triggered by extreme periods of adversity, said Sonia Khush, the director of Save the Children in Ukraine. The effects are so powerful that they can alter brain structures and organ systems, lasting long into children’s adult lives.

Offering a hopeful path through war is not just for Ukraine’s children today, Mr. Shahzamani said. It is for the sake of the country’s future, too.

The War Child group recently surveyed children and grandchildren of those who lived through World War II, and found that families even two generations later were affected by wartime traumas.

“War is intergenerational,” he said. “That is why it is extremely important to work on the well-being and mental health of children.”

Education is critical to psychological support, Ms. Khush said. Schools provide children with social networks among peers, guidance from teachers and a routine that can provide a sense of normalcy amid pervasive uncertainty.

More than 2,000 of Ukraine’s approximately 17,000 schools have been damaged by war, while 221 have been destroyed, according to United Nations statistics. Another 3,500 have been used to shelter or assist the seven million Ukrainians who have fled to safer parts of the country. No one knows how many will open when the academic year starts a month from now.

Credit…Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

The social destruction is even harder to repair. Thousands of families have been ripped apart as brothers and fathers have been conscripted or killed, and children forced to flee, leaving grandparents and friends behind. Aid workers have noticed a growing problem of nightmares and aggressive behavior in young children.

Before the invasion, Ukraine had about 91,000 children in institutional orphanages, more than half with disabilities, Mr. Sahin said. No tally has been released for how much that number has climbed since the war began.

One of the major unknowns of the war is the number of children orphaned or separated from their parents. But apart from those orphaned, Moscow has also forcibly deported tens of thousands of Ukrainians into Russia, according to Ukrainian officials. Many are believed to be children separated from their parents.

Now, Ukrainian activists are using clandestine networks inside Russian-held territories to try to get information on those children — and, if possible, bring them back.

There is hope for orphans, too. A new effort led by the Ukrainian government and UNICEF has encouraged about 21,000 families to register as foster families. Already, 1,000 of them are trained and taking children in.

“It’s just the beginning,” Maryna Lazebna, Ukraine’s minister of social policy, said recently. “Sometimes destruction encourages building something new, not rebuilding the past.”

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Ukraine Grain Ship Passes Russia’s Black Sea Blockade

MYKOLAIV, Ukraine — A ship loaded with corn on Monday became the first cargo vessel to sail from Ukraine in more than five months of war, passing through Russia’s naval blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and raising hopes that desperately needed food will soon reach nations afflicted by shortages and soaring prices.

The ship’s journey was the culmination of months of negotiations and an international campaign to get grain out of Ukraine, one of the world’s breadbaskets before the war. Russia’s invasion and blockade, along with Western sanctions impeding Russian exports and factors like drought and climate change, have sharply cut global grain supplies, threatening to bring famine to tens of millions of people, particularly in the Middle East and Africa.

Mediators from the United Nations and Turkey, which shares the Black Sea coast with Russia and Ukraine, oversaw months of talks in Istanbul. Though discussions seemed hopelessly mired for weeks, in late July the parties struck a deal to free more than 20 million tons of grain.

the causes of a looming global hunger crisis.

“Ensuring that grain, fertilizers, and other food-related items are available at reasonable prices to developing countries is a humanitarian imperative,” António Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, said Monday. “People on the verge of famine need these agreements to work, in order to survive.”

major supplier of fertilizer, and with Ukraine it supplies more than a quarter of the world’s wheat.

But as the Razoni’s Black Sea crossing raised hopes for some degree of cooperation between the combatants, the fighting intensified on multiple fronts in Ukraine.

a counteroffensive in the southern Kherson region, Ukraine has used long-range precision weapons, recently supplied by the West, to disrupt Russian supply lines and logistics. Ukrainian forces have attacked Russian command and control centers, hit supply routes, tried to isolate Russian forces into pockets and enlisted Ukrainian saboteurs behind enemy lines.

adept at attacking Russian command and control hubs and destroying large amounts of Russian equipment. On Monday, the Biden administration announced another round of support for Ukraine: $550 million in military aid, including more ammunition for 155-millimeter howitzer artillery pieces and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, that the United States has already provided.

But for all its sluggish or faltering progress in the war, Russia retains vast advantages in the size of its arsenal, and its military has shown a willingness and ability to strike all over the country, even as it focuses on gaining ground in eastern Ukraine. There, Russia has blanketed town after town with overwhelming artillery fire as it tries to reposition ground forces to press forward.

The strategy slowly gave Russia control of the eastern Luhansk Province, leaving many cities and villages in ruins. Russian forces have since moved to reinforce the south and to push into another eastern province, Donetsk.

“Their tactic remains much the same as it was during the hostilities in Luhansk region,” Serhiy Haidai, head of Ukraine’s Luhansk regional government, said on Monday.

He said the Russians were making daily attempts to mount an offensive on the city of Bakhmut, in Donetsk, but so far had failed to break through the main Ukrainian defensive lines.

Russian forces have also continued to shell residential and military areas in and around the city of Kharkiv in the northeast, putting pressure on Ukraine not to shift too many of its defenses from there.

In Chuhuiv, in the Kharkiv region and just 10 miles from Russian lines, residents were still recovering on Monday from missile strikes last week on the House of Culture, a building used since Soviet times for cultural events. In wartime, the building’s kitchens were used to prepare food for the needy, but members of the city government had also used it as a temporary office, possibly a reason for the attack.

The missiles killed three people sheltering in the basement and wounded several more, according to Oleh Synyehubov, the Kharkiv regional administrator. A volunteer cook was among the dead, residents said. His brother and several other people survived.

Two women were also killed, one of whom had been helping the cook, said a resident who gave only his first name, Maksim, wary of possible retribution. They were making an Uzbek rice dish, plov, for people in the neighborhood.

“She was just cleaning vegetables,” Maksim said.

Chuhuiv has come under increasing bombardment in recent days, as have the city of Kharkiv and other villages and towns in the province. Soldiers guarding the approaches to the city on Sunday said that artillery strikes had been steady much of the day, hitting an industrial area around the train station.

The Russians “are hitting lots of places like this, all the schools as well,” said Maksim. “They are doing it to make the people leave.”

People were getting the message, and the town was largely empty, he said. He was preparing to leave too, he said. He and his family had plans to emigrate to Canada.

“There is nothing left here,” he said.

Michael Schwirtz reported from Mykolaiv, Ukraine, Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels and Matthew Mpoke Bigg from London. Reporting was contributed by Carlotta Gall and Kamila Hrabchuk from Chuhuiv, Ukraine, Marc Santora from London and Alan Yuhas from New York.

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