In Ukraine, devastated Lyssychansk resists the advance of Russian forces
The shell left a gaping hole in the police station of Lyssytchansk, Ukraine, symbol of the Russian artillery barrage which crushes this city in the east of the country where soldiers were digging defensive positions on Tuesday.
The police station was hit overnight from Monday to Tuesday, after Lysytchansk suffered heavy shelling that left at least one dead in this strategic industrial city located opposite Severodonetsk, in the eastern region of Donbass.
Luhansk region governor Sergiy Gaidai said the city had been “very heavily shelled” all day and had also been the target of airstrikes.
The police station, located on a side street leading to the river, suffered a “direct impact” which injured 20 police officers, special forces colonel Oleksandr Kutsepalenko told AFP.
The injured officers were taken to the city hospital, which has no electricity. The intensive bombardment of the city had started early Monday afternoon and continued into the night, according to the police. The colonel specifies that there were nine direct strikes in the district around the police station, which left “54 craters” in the surroundings.
Tuesday morning, the sound of multiple rocket fire still echoed.
The police station was still open on Tuesday, one of the few public services in operation in the devastated city. Residents come here to register deaths, seek help to contact relatives or simply use the toilets.
“The walls collapsed and the doors were blown out,” said a policeman who identified himself by his nickname, Petrovich. Outside, three police cars caught fire after shrapnel blew up a gas cylinder, he said.
Closer to the front line, police set up a barricade with wrecked cars and vans in an attempt to slow the advancing Russian forces.
A civilian building located opposite the station was also gutted, a Russian missile lies in the courtyard. A woman on the second floor was “injured by shrapnel”, according to Petrovich. On the road, pages of textbooks and a stuffed toy.
– Soldier in blood –
On the road leading to the city, Ukrainian military vehicles, including tanks, ambulances and armored personnel carriers, come and go.
In sweltering heat, a military ambulance pulled up to fix a flat tire, its rear doors open for air. Inside, the paramedic presses the bandages of a bleeding soldier, with another young soldier on a stretcher next to him.
Rare inhabitants venture by bike or on foot to try to get supplies. Some older people fill plastic bottles with water from a bin near the fire station.
“They see us as separatists because we stayed,” said Igor, a pensioner, referring to local officials and even the region’s governor.
“We are normal people,” assures a young woman pushing a pram filled with water bottles.
Others complain that they have not received their pension. “We are in Ukraine. Let them bring an armored vehicle and distribute money,” grumbles Igor.