Saturday December 09, 2023

Civilians urged to evacuate as Russians advance in Donbas

July 07, 2022

SLOVIANSK, Ukraine: The evacuation of civilians from Sloviansk continued on Wednesday as Russian troops pressed towards the eastern Ukrainian city in their campaign to control the Donbas region, as Ireland’s prime minister visited Kyiv.

Sloviansk has been subjected to heavy bombardment in recent days as the invading Russian forces push westwards. "Twenty years of work; everything is lost. No more income, no more wealth," Yevgen Oleksandrovych, 66, told AFP as he surveyed the site of his auto parts shop, destroyed in Tuesday’s strikes.

AFP journalists saw rockets slam into Sloviansk’s marketplace and surrounding streets, with firefighters scrambling to put out the resulting blazes. Around a third of the market in Sloviansk appeared to have been destroyed, with locals coming to see what was left among the charred wreckage.

The remaining part of the market was functioning, with a trickle of shoppers coming out to buy fruit and vegetables. "I will sell it out and that’s it, and we will stay home. We have basements, we will hide there. What we can do? We have nowhere to go, nobody needs us," said 72-year-old greengrocer Galyna Vasyliivna.

Mayor Vadym Lyakh said that around 23,000 people were still in Sloviansk but claimed Russia had been unable to surround the city. "Since the beginning of hostilities, 17 residents of the community have died, 67 have been injured," he said.

"Evacuation is ongoing. We take people out every day. About 23,000 residents remain. Many of the evacuees were taken by bus to the city of Dnipro, further west. "The city is well fortified. Russia does not manage to advance to the city," he said.

Vitaliy, a plumber, said his wife and their daughter, who is six months pregnant, were evacuated from Sloviansk on Wednesday. "I am afraid for my wife," he told AFP. "Here, after what happened yesterday, they hit the city centre; need to leave.

"I sent my wife, and I have no more choice: tomorrow I will join the army." The eastern Donbas is mainly comprised of Lugansk region, which Russian forces have almost entirely captured, and the Donetsk region to its southwest -- the current focus of Moscow’s attack and the location of Sloviansk.

The fall of Lysychansk in Lugansk on Sunday, a week after the Ukrainian army also retreated from the neighbouring city of Severodonetsk, has freed up Russian troops to advance west on Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in Donetsk.

On Tuesday, they were first closing in on the smaller city of Siversk -- which lies between Lysychansk and Sloviansk -- after days of shelling there. Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said Russian forces killed five civilians and injured 21 in the region on Tuesday. Lugansk governor Sergiy Gayday claimed that Ukrainian forces were holding back Russian troops on the borders of Lugansk and Donetsk.