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No way out for 150,000 people trapped in Ukrainian city of 'hell' – as Russian forces bomb last bridge standing

The survivors of Chernihiv, north Ukraine, call it “hell” and fear that it will soon become another Mariupol under the Russian forces.

We witnessed Chernihiv’s brutal detachment from humanitarian aid and the outside world.

For weeks, the city has been under bombardment from Russian troops who have closed in on it and circled it. Many who have escaped from the bombardment of the city with artillery shelling and airstrikes have said they were unable to leave their underground shelters for at least two weeks.

The city’s electricity supply has been cut. The city has very little water and no heating, and fast food runs out.

Image As the sun sets, smoke rises above Chernihiv – the last escape route from the city under siege is now closed.

Ukraine news: Moscow suggests it may have abandoned full takeover after Russian commander was “killed”

We witnessed the Russian bombardment of civilians, medical personnel and rescue workers at crossing the River Desna. They were trying to flee from the dangers.

Voluntary soldiers and rescue workers worked tirelessly to help people cross the last pedestrian bridge linking Chernihiv with the main route to Kyiv. At this point, Russian troops had closed in on three corners of the city and had destroyed the main transport bridge.

Image Smoke rises above Chernihiv

To get to the crossing, a stream of ambulances, emergency vehicles and emergency teams raced through a boggy field. A humanitarian convoy was trying to help civilians and was forced to travel across an open area where every vehicle movement was vulnerable to attack.

As we arrived just before dusk, the window at the southeast end of the city was closing fast.

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People flee after Chernihiv Bridge is bombed

There were many people waiting patiently with their bags for the vehicles that could take them out of this small riverbank. Many others were also dragging their rucksacks along with them, as they were led away from the city and onto the field.

The area was rocked by a torrent of rockets, sending everyone to the ground. Mad panic broke out as many vehicles ran for cover and attempted to weave through the trees to get back into the open field.

We could see the civilians now laying on the ground in a line, and then they quickly got up and walked away from their homes. The attacks did not stop.

Although the Russians had already struck the pedestrian bridge, they were soon followed by the emergency vehicles and civilians.

The Russian military did not stop at destroying the only escape route from the city under siege. They also wanted to inflict as many injuries and death on those who tried to flee.

Image Volunteer troops discuss how to get back in the city to evacuate more civilians

Chernihiv has strategic importance because it is located right across the Russia-approved north route for its march on the capital. The city is located 150 km (93 miles) north of Kyiv on the Desna River.

Russian troops spent the last month trying to bulldoze through the city, which is home to churches and monuments that date back centuries.

The Russian military appears determined to starve and bomb the city into submission, despite its inability to subdue it or its citizens.

The mayor of Chernihiv has been able to film some destruction inside the city. There are many burning buildings and bombed homes. An estimated 150,000 people are still trapped in the city. The mayor said that “we cannot cope with all of our dead.” “It’s carnage.”

We are contacted by another of his officials who tells us that they want to cause as much humanitarian catastrophe as possible. They can’t beat us militarily so they want to force us to stop this way.”

Image Volunteer soldiers sleep in a basement of a village outside of Chernihiv

If you are able, try to reach the nearby communities and villages just south of the city. Even here, there is still the sound of bombings and shellings throughout the night. We retreat together with the majority of the village and move into an abandoned gym basement with a group volunteer soldiers to spend the night.

Volunteer soldiers asked that their identities be kept secret. They use the time to take a deep breath, and many return home to speak to their families.

Image Volunteer soldiers try to rescue civilians from the city.

One paratrooper who served in the Ukrainian army for over a decade said, “My heart is just broken,” and then he retrained as an attorney and fought for his country again.

They are all Chernihivites. They call it home. They include a dentist, PE teacher, landscape gardener, and an ex-convict who smiles and says, “I’m a bandit.” Before I was in prison. Now, I want to save my country.”

Another person who organizes humanitarian aid and evacuation convoys to the city says: “How do I explain the importance human life. There is nothing more important than saving lives, especially little boys and girls. This is what we have to do. This is what we must do.

They save lives by saving others’ lives, even though they are away from their families.

Image An ambulance was struck as it attempted to evacuate civilians from Chernihiv

We will be heading back to the open fields and the crossing point for the pedestrian bridge next morning. It’s evident that Chernihiv has been beaten up over the past night.

In the nearest village, there are many vehicles and medics lining up to assist civilians or to transport them. There are no vehicles and anyone who attempts to cross the border is being shot at.

A yellow van with big red crosses on its bonnet that has been converted into a mobile emergency vehicle for medical emergencies pulls up as we approach the end of the open field. The driver is covered in black soot and has his nose stuffed full of it.

He had a cut to his forehead and seemed shaken. He says, “I need to get help.” We can see that his left trouser leg has been soaked in blood as he struggles to get out of the van. He’s limping.

He motions towards his leg and says “This isn’t so serious.” “I have another injury in my side. It’s serious. It’s so serious that I can’t even breathe.”

Image: A paramedic named Yuri was shot while trying to evacuate the city. He has multiple shrapnel injuries, and he asks Sky to help him.

Producer Jake Jacobs pulls out his medical equipment to check if he can help. He claims to be Yuri Zebrovski, a former paramedic for the Ukrainian military, and has shrapnel in his leg.

Jake stitches him up. As he examines his chest wound, he sees that more shrapnel appears to have punctured the lung. He will need more surgery and hospital treatment.

He claims he was standing near the pedestrian bridge when the attack occurred. He says that it was only 15 minutes ago.

He said, “I saw destroyed vehicles destroyed civilian vehicles,” adding, “They were all completely destroyed, burned out and there was only one civilian left.”

Image This route to Chernihiv is closed. All bridges have been destroyed

An attack on civilians, including non-combatants, such as medics, is a possible war crime. He stooped back into his car and said out of the window, “Our country needs you help.” Before giving us a peace signal and driving away, he says “Good luck.”

We find cluster bomb casings in one of the nearby fields. We’ve spoken to several experts, including Bellingcat (an investigative journalism group), Human Rights Watch, and Jane’s Defence.

Eliot Higgins, founder of Bellingcat, is currently compiling a dossier on the use and impact of cluster bombs in Ukraine during World War II.

Sky News was informed by him that these are remnants of 220mm 9M27K Cluster Rockets, which were used by the BM-27 Urugan Multiple Rocket Launcher. It has been widely used in Ukraine. It is used by both sides, but it can be determined which direction they are firing from based upon which direction the ones in the ground point to.

The angle of the tail fins, and the cluster munition container indicate that the cluster bombs were fired in the direction of the Russian frontlines surrounding Chernihiv.

Cluster containers often land directly in front of the areas where the munitions are. Experts place the landing areas and destination for cluster bombs as being primarily above the city.

Image Cluster bomb casing discovered in a field of farmers

Bellingcat says that cluster munitions are a group of small sub-munitions deployed over a target. These sub-munitions then spread out and explode over large areas, increasing the risk of casualties.

These weapons are often criticized as being dangerous and posing a threat to civilians in conflict zones. They also have the potential for causing “long-lasting” damage if they don’t explode immediately.

While more than 100 countries have signed an agreement to prohibit their use, Russia and Ukraine are not signatories to the treaty. Both are bound by international humanitarian law, which prohibits the use indiscriminate attack – and Russia has been warned by the United Nations.

UN spokesperson Liz Throssell said recently to journalists in Geneva: “We remind Russia that direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects, along with so-called area bombing in towns and villages, and other forms indiscriminate attacks are all prohibited by international law.”

Image: Tatiana and her family managed escape Chernihiv. She described the hellish conditions in the city, with no food, gas or electricity.

Chernihiv’s survivors have told us about the nightmare life inside. It’s hell. Tatiana Chaban wept, “It’s hell.”

“My godmother is still there. They stay underground shelters for days and nights. It is too dangerous to venture out. They don’t have food, gas or electricity. It’s like Mariupol, with constant bombing. Everyone is cut off. It’s terrible.”

It is urgent to find a way to rescue those who are still trapped.

However, few people expect an agreement to be reached soon and there is a lot of doubt about its validity. Chernihiv’s hell is not ending any time soon.

Beyond Chernihiv, Kyiv is also the capital.

Alex Crawford reports from Chernihiv, with Jake Britton as camera operator and with producers Oleksandre Piiskun, Chris Cunningham and Mihailo Vadimovich Cherniak.


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