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IRPIN, Ukraine – An exhausted old woman on crutches crept onto a flimsy wooden plank that was hastily thrown across the swift currents of the Irpin River, just outside the city of Kyiv.
Supported on both sides by a policeman and a volunteer, she weakly made her way through the perilous journey, the feet of her helpers almost submerged in cold white waves. The board sagged as she made her way to the other side, where she was helped onto a ramp with solid ground.
“Come on, grandma, just a little bit more, here we go, up here,” a tall volunteer told her, guiding her to the relative safety of Kyiv’s side. “Here you go, you go.”
She stopped, panting, on crutches, and asked in a weak voice if there was any water. A man pours two of her small bottle caps. Slightly refreshed, she moved up the slope to the highway, where an ambulance was waiting in the parking lot on the other side. They will put her in Kyiv. There, buses awaited those who wanted to flee further, ready to transport everyone to the relative safety of Western Ukraine.
The person who volunteered to help her was busy again. Behind her, there was a long line of people also crossing the river. Women with small children in their arms. Young couple with pet carrier. Middle-aged men and women with bulky bags and suitcases containing their mortal remains.
They are all escaping from Irpin and Bucha, once picturesque suburbs of Kyiv, where peaceful Russia has been disrupted by invasion, shelling and partial occupation. In recent days, Bucha, Irpin and the neighboring town of Hostomel have become the front lines for Russian forces attempting to encircle and capture the capital.
The ruins of the Irpin bridge, destroyed by the Ukrainian army to prevent Russian troops from approaching the city, surround the refugees, providing support for Russian missiles, mortars or artillery shells that could strike. attack and destroy at any time.
According to an online statement by the Mayor of Irpin, Oleksandr Markushin, on Sunday, the Russian military killed eight people, including a family of four with two children, delaying the evacuation plan by a day. . A video of one of the explosions went viral on the internet.
Viktoria Kramarenko, a civilian burn specialist and volunteer who has worked here since the war began, confirmed that Russian forces on Sunday morning shelled the road with heavy mortars, after It’s an unguided missile. A large number of people were stuck on the Irpin side, under the bridge, unable to cross, because the ambulances were forced to back to a safe distance. Several dozen people were injured, she said.
Tasos Tsiamis, who has an immigration services company in Kyiv, told POLITICO: “Everyone was there, a lot of people with children, elderly people trying to cross the bridge and get to the Kyiv side to catch the bus. “Bombs, rockets are exploding next to our heads.”
Crossing started again on Monday morning. According to a volunteer in uniform, more than 2,000 people had evacuated by midday. They could soon join the more than 1.5 million Ukrainians who have had to leave their country since the Russian invasion.
The scars from the skirmish were evident in the countless shell fragments under his feet and the bloody little dog with a wounded paw someone had saved nearby.
Those who were forced to leave their homes were emaciated, some looking as if they had cried or at least hadn’t slept for several days. When asked how she felt when she escaped, Tetiana, who declined to give her last name, replied: “We didn’t feel anything. We are living in a unique way in this moment. “
But their fate was pitiful compared with the many people left behind in Irpin and Bucha, who were forced to stay there by the Russians either unwilling or unable to take the risk of trying to escape and being shot – or with a mortar from a distance. , or with an assault rifle, face to face.
“There’s a lot of people left behind, maybe 20%” of Irpin’s population, Tetiana said. On Monday, she made it through and drove several kilometers into the suburban neighborhoods of Kyiv, where westbound buses idling.
According to Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko, while the capital continues to hold strong, many of its suburbs are under fierce attack by Russian forces, who have struggled to make significant progress. important in recent days.
Instead, they shelled refugee columns, as has reportedly been done in many parts of the country, including the south, according to Ukrainian officials and several newspaper accounts. international press.
According to a resident of Kozarovychi, a village north of Kyiv, the layout of Russian soldiers is in fact becoming more “brutal” as they endure the cold and discomfort. The person’s name has been omitted for safety reasons.
According to Oleksii Kuleba, governor of Kyiv province, Kozarovychi’s neighboring towns of Dymer and Ivankiv continue to face humanitarian emergencies.
“Thousands of people have been isolated due to hostilities, especially Russian shelling of civilians,” Kuleba said Sunday in a statement, referring to many areas near the capital. “People exist without light, water, food or medical care. They are in danger.”
The danger is real. In Bucha, two injured children died because they could not receive medical care, Ukraine Human Rights Commissioner Lyudmyla Denisova said on Sunday.
These stories are now familiar to everyone’s ears. Many people told POLITICO that they personally know of people left behind in Bucha or Irpin who urgently need to get out but can’t – pregnant women, people with elderly or seriously ill parents, and people with injuries.
“The hospitals in Irpin have injured people and children and their supplies are running low, but [the Russian forces] Kramarenko, the doctor said. “If there is some way to organize the negotiations, maybe. But if we go, they will simply shoot us. Volunteers were able to give a few,” but that’s about it.
Others trapped may not face any life-threatening emergencies, but they are being denied access to food service, electricity, gas and cell phones. While volunteers sometimes tried to distribute bread and cereal, these ran out before everyone could get some.
In addition, the volunteers put themselves in danger. A Russian military vehicle fired at a civilian vehicle in Bucha on Friday, reported killed three volunteers, who delivered some food to an animal shelter.
“At the moment, there are no connections,” Kramarenko said. Russian forces “understand that we are being informed” by local residents. She said messengers sometimes walk towards occupied territory to let people know when they might be trying to break in.
Elena Nikolaychuk was once in that situation. Before fleeing Bucha on Monday, she said her family and neighbors had spent days without electricity and briefly without food and gas. They manage to keep their devices running by dividing the backup power.
In the end, they decided to suspend operations, using the side streets to remain undetected. Clutching their cargo and a shoebox with their parrot Corella, the group heeded the advice they’d heard to cross the runway, to freedom.
“When we left Bucha and arrived in Irpin, people looked at us out of their homes as if we were…”
“As if we were crazy,” interrupted her neighbor, who had escaped with her.
“Like we were completely crazy,” she agreed.
Many people were frightened and left. Nikolaychuk said she and her neighbors had heard that someone had been shot in the street while trying to leave. Fortunately, while her group passed through sight of the Russian forces, the Russians ignored them.
“We prayed that they wouldn’t stop us,” she said. “God had mercy on us. Some people are being forced to stop.”
Besides God, fugitives also have some life-or-death protection.
Ukrainian forces continue to secure the area around the crossing, providing roadblocks and helping people reach safety. Throughout the morning, one could hear the occasional thunder of large guns in the distance. This time, they were Ukrainian guns hitting the Russian army, whose advance toward the capital had slowed or stalled altogether.
The civil defense force also has the support of medical and ambulance, moving in and out of the area and transporting people. Stress doctors frequently urge people to hurry while they linger to avoid being separated from friends or family. However, the medical supply was also stretched out.
“We need armored vehicles and we need more high-speed ambulances with life support, so people can get caught in respirators,” Kramarenko said.
https://www.politico.eu/article/fleeing-battleground-kyiv-death-hang-overhead/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Fleeing from the battlefields around Kyiv as death hangs overhead - POLITICO