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ERR in Ukraine: Older Kupiansk residents remain at the mercy of Russian strikes

Destroyed houses in Kupiansk, Khakiv oblast.
Destroyed houses in Kupiansk, Khakiv oblast. Source: ERR

In recent days Russian forces advancing in the Kharkiv oblast in Northern Ukraine have almost reach the city of Kupiansk, to the southeast, but local residents are not ready to leave their homes just yet, ERR reported from on the ground.

Kupiansk fell under occupation at the start of the invasion, nearly two years ago now, only to be liberated in autumn of the same year.

The front is however moving closer and closer once again, ERR reported.

Four months ago, when ERR's Anton Alekseyev, reporter, and Kristjan Svirgsden, camera operator, were last in the area, the front line was 10 kilometers away. The distance on their recent return was less than half that, while residents of annihilated villages on the opposite bank of the Oskol River, which marks the city's eastern boundary, fled at the last moment they had the chance to.

One local resident, Natalia, told Aleksejev and Svirgsden that: "My father and mother are buried in the cemetery there."

"I've lived there 60 years. Would you want to leave your worldly possessions behind? I'm sorry even for the bucket riddle with holes that I left behind. I owned three cows. I felt so sorry for them, but I had to to let them go. If we had known that this would have happened, we would have prepared better. But I miss my home so much," Natalia went on.

"If there's nothing left of my home [on returning], I'll live in the cellar. I'll figure something out. Maybe the barn would still be there. But if I survive, I'll definitely go back there," she went on.

Right now, Natalia is staying with a friend in Kupiansk. Even there, she is not safe: A Russian missile landed near the building Monday evening.

The friend, Lydia, said: "It was horrendously scary. I thought the whole house was going to explode. I've never been afraid of anything in my whole life, but yesterday scared me to death. I was already thinking of leaving, but where can I go?"

The state, aided by volunteers, offers the opportunity to evacuate from the front line areas to all civilians, yet few are willing to leave their homes.

Of this service, another resident, Tatiana, said: "We called the emergency line, to be told that you will be accommodated at least 10 per room. But we are old. If there were two to three people per room, it would be more or less achievable."

Tatjana's grandson, Serhii is one of the volunteers, and together with friends, he helps to repair the houses damaged during the war, despite the fact that the area could be hit again tomorrow. Wouldn't it be more reasonable to at least convince his own grandmother to leave the hazardous environs of Kupiansk?

Serhii says: "It's been a year and a half that I've been trying to convince them to leave. We've even fought over it. But we agreed that if the front line should reach the city itself, we'll take her, and everyone else ,out of here. They agree to do that, but otherwise, right now they don't want to leave."

Kharkiv and environs has been subject to Russian strikes since the New Year.

The original "Aktuaalne kaamera," reportage is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera'

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