Saturday May 25, 2024

Civilians escape east Ukraine cities as Russian assault looms

April 13, 2022

SLOVIANSK, Ukraine: By bus and train, residents keep streaming out of east Ukraine’s Kramatorsk and Sloviansk as fears grow the cities will be key targets of a major new Russian offensive.

On Tuesday morning, a bus in the green and yellow colours of local football team FC Kramatorsk was waiting in the rain to collect about 50 people. Men dropped off their wives, children and elderly relatives for the journey westwards that was being funded by a church group.

Worry and sadness were etched on the faces of the loved ones as they got ready to bid each other goodbye. The frontline is only 50-km away to the north, east and south of Kramatorsk -- the Ukrainian military’s main hub for its operations in the east.

That distance may soon be reduced soon as Russia masses its forces for an onslaught that many believe will be aimed at capturing the city, and neighbouring Sloviansk, in a pincer movement. A family disembarked from a taxi to catch the bus, among them a little girl holding a plastic box containing a black and white cat.