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'We just want it over': Ukrainians cling to life in key city as savage shelling intensifies

Lysychansk’s skyline is filled with smoke from shells that have just been exploded.

As we travel into the eastern Ukrainian city, another plane lands and billows out in black smoke. It looks like it is in the middle of a cluster of houses.

The streets are much more empty than they were when we last visited them a few days ago.

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It’s shocking to see how rapidly the situation has changed. It is shocking to see how quickly the situation has deteriorated in a city that has seen life become utterly miserable for three months.

They have been without electricity and running water for most of their time, and have endured daily torture watching and listening to Russian troops bombard their twin city of Severodonetsk with increasing savagery and determination.

It seems that it has gotten worse.

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Image The conflict has left Lysychansk’s civilians, such as Yelena, devastated

Yelena, sitting on the steps outside her apartment, says “We just want it all over.”

We inform them that videos online have shown Chechen fighters in Severodonetsk, boasting about taking over the city.

As they assure residents that they have “liberated” their city, the fighters can be seen smiling and greeting them.

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“My child is gone… but he died as a hero, and I’m proud to be his mother for that.”

Lysychansk’s people know that they will be the next. These twin cities are the last pockets of Luhansk still under Ukrainian control.

They will fall and the Russians can claim half of the region called the Donbas, eastern Ukraine.

Oleh Hryhorov is the Luhansk chief of police and has led a small group that helped evacuate people trying to escape Severodonetsk.

Many routes are no longer passable so the authorities have been trying to get people on small boats.

Image Unexploded missile found in Lysychansk

Oleh informs us that two boats have been destroyed. “Every time they see that we have another route, they shell.”

He shows us an armoured truck, which was used to evacuate people just a day earlier.

It has a large hole where shrapnel from an incoming shell has entered.

Frederic LeclercImhoff, a French journalist who was present to cover evacuations, suffered serious injuries from flying shrapnel. He later died.

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Image Flat that was hit by a missile from Sloviansk

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Russian advances on Severodonetsk

Police believe that the truck was intentionally targeted by Russian forces after it was tipped off by “collaborators”.

According to police, they have arrested between 30 and 40 people who, according to them, directed rockets and missiles at their neighbors and other residents.

Oleh said, “They are murderers.” “This isn’t war on the frontline, this is war with civilians in the town and they destroy every life.”

Image Oleh, his colleagues in police insist that the twin cities won’t be taken

He said Lysychansk was not safe at the moment.

He says, “I recommend you not to be there.” He and his colleagues insist that the twin cities won’t be taken.

We won’t allow it. Oleh insists that our army won’t allow it.

Image “I just want peace”, Yudmela said

From where we are, perched on the crest of the hill overlooking Severodonetsk it is difficult to imagine how they will be able hold. According to Russian forces, at least half the city is under their control.

The Russians are moving on three fronts in Donbas, and the Ukrainians appear unable to stop them.

They are pushing against the city of Sloviansk’s flanks from the east, south and north.

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Frontline with 93rd Brigade

As the city attacked, our windows and frames were shaken.

As the flames rose, we stood back and watched as lives and homes were destroyed. The impact had already caused extensive damage to at least three apartment blocks by morning.

The Russians would take Sloviansk as a symbolic victory. It was captured briefly by pro-Kremlin fighters in 2014, but it was quickly regained by the Ukrainians.

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They don’t want it to be lost again. However, the overnight attacks show just how brutal this new battle in Donbas.

Many in the Donbas are tired of war. They don’t want to see a division, they just want the violence to stop.

Yudmela says: “I just want peace.” They should leave us alone, I want that.”

It doesn’t seem like this is going to happen anytime soon.


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