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Russian army capture of Avdiivka prompts elderly people to depart nearby towns

Russian army capture of Avdiivka prompts elderly people to depart nearby towns

Russian army capture of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine has unsettled residents in nearby towns, prompting many to depart for safer areas after enduring months of relentless hostile fire.

Most of the evacuees are elderly individuals. Witnessing their neighborhoods reduced to rubble, they now witness the 1000-km (600-mile) front line in the nearly two-year-old conflict inching closer.

Many of these elderly individuals, with limited mobility, receive assistance from a relief organization named “East SOS” for evacuation. However, the process remains challenging.

In Selydove, Maryna Batrak, wrapped up against the chill, is assisted down the stairs and helped onto a minibus parked in the courtyard, which will transport her to a train station in the town of Pokrovsk.

Read more: Russia rapidly replacing its destroyed tanks in Ukraine at a rate of 100 per month – UK intelligence

Russian forces continue advancement and increase bombardment

“Russian forces have reached Nevelske,” Batrak remarks, pointing towards a town to the east. “Another 20-30 km, and that spells the end for us. Have you seen the devastation in those cities?”

Batrak’s residence has been obliterated. She recounts the local toll from two years of conflict – schools, kindergartens, a college, a maternity hospital, all reduced to ruins.

Valentyna Kitush, who shares a tearful farewell with neighbors as she boards the van, remarks that Avdiivka’s fall – following enduring Russian assaults since October – marks a tipping point.

“The bombardment has intensified. And now that our troops have abandoned Avdiivka, it will only worsen,” she states.

“They are bombarding and destroying everything. Should I wait until they destroy us too? I’ve made my decision. I’m leaving.”

The capture of Avdiivka signals a shift in momentum in the protracted conflict as the third anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches.

It represents Russia’s most significant battlefield triumph since its forces captured Bakhmut in May 2023, and President Vladimir Putin recently announced that Russian troops would advance further into Ukraine.

Evacuations in Selydove and Pokrovsk

As evacuations commence in Selydove, two volunteers tenderly carry a resident with a prosthetic leg to a minibus in a sling. A stray dog watches on expectantly, but there are no handouts.

The minibus navigates through streets dominated by ruined apartment blocks and other structures, with roofs, balconies, and railings twisted and shattered, and entire floors missing.

At the train station in Pokrovsk, volunteers assist residents in boarding, carrying shopping bags and small suitcases, each containing a few belongings.

An attendant lifts and hands an infant clad in a snowsuit. Also assisted aboard is the man with the prosthetic leg.

The atmosphere lightens as one volunteer places a caged parrot on the window sill in one compartment.

“That’s our little beauty,” remarks its elderly female owner, mustering a faint smile.

In Kurakhove, another town increasingly within the range of Russian artillery, residents understand the challenges ahead. Consequently, they load salvaged wooden panels onto trucks.

“The town is under constant bombardment. As they draw nearer, it becomes easier for them to shell us,” says Volodymyr. “The town is well within their reach. The front line is only 10 km away, perhaps even eight km.”

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