BEZRUKY, UKRAINE (REUTERS) - The Russian missile turned Vera Kosolopenko's small home into a fiery pyre that consumed the Bible and all of the other precious mementoes that she cherished of her late husband.
"I have lost everything that connected me to him," she wept on Saturday (May 14) as she stood by the smouldering remains of the house destroyed by the missile a day earlier.
"All I have left is the portrait engraved on his gravestone."
The diminutive 67-year-old widow is lucky to be alive.
She and two friends were drinking tea inside the house when the missile slammed into the roof, she said.
"It was so quick. It was terrifying."
Villagers said the missile was one of five that in quick succession struck the leafy hamlet that sits 26km north of Kharkiv, close to where Ukrainian troops have driven Russian forces that tried to overrun the country's second-largest city in Moscow's Feb 24 invasion.
The Russians did not occupy Bezruky, located only 17km from the frontier. But they occasionally sent vehicles to patrol its narrow dirt tracks before their forces were pushed back by the nearly two-week-old Ukrainian counteroffensive, villagers said.
Since the war began, Bezruky has endured near-constant shellfire that has destroyed or damaged many of the homes.
Rocket and bomb craters dot its lanes and the rutted gravel road leading to the village, an occasional trench and bunker visible in the trees lining its verges.
The foes were fighting artillery duels during the visit by Reuters. Loud, throaty booms came from nearby Ukrainian guns; muffled thuds marked distant Russian positions that sent several south-bound shells whistling directly overhead.
Countless Ukrainian villages like Bezruky have been shattered by the invasion that nuclear-armed Russia claims it was forced to launch to eradicate a threat that Ukraine posed to its security.
Ukraine and its foreign supporters say thousands of people have died in the Kremlin's unprovoked war of aggression that has uprooted millions of others and left cities and town...