in the hell of Irpin under the bombs

Maria carries a paltry bag in which she has tucked a few clothes. With this only baggage, she left her accommodation in Irpin, in the greater suburbs of Kiev: “That night the noise was deafening. There were huge explosions and I thought that was the end. Luckily, thank goodness, we got out. It’s gonna be okay now, it’s gonna be okay…

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In Ukraine, the Russian army continues its strategy of encircling Kiev. It concentrates its attacks on the north and west of the capital. The city of Irpin has thus been the subject of intensive bombing for the past 8 days. Hundreds of civilians flee Russian attacks and cross a bridge destroyed by the Ukrainians to prevent the Russians from entering Kiev. To reach the city, it is therefore necessary to take a path made of sheet metal and wooden planks thrown between the banks of a stream. Not far from this area, American journalist Brent Renaud was killed: while driving with a colleague and a Ukrainian citizen, he was hit by a gunshot.

Hundreds of civilians flee Russian attacks on Irpin and cross a bridge destroyed by the Ukrainians to prevent the Russians from entering Kiev.  (FRANCE MATHEVON / RADIO FRANCE)

On the other hand, volunteers help the citizens. They requisition the few vehicles that are still running. †There are evacuations going on, but the Russians don’t care, sues Sergei, one of these volunteersIn addition, volunteers evacuated and fired upon civilians yesterday. Fortunately, no one died, but some were injured and hospitalized.

The main street crosses a ghost town: carcasses in front of partially destroyed buildings, some gutted… The vehicle stops at the foot of a bar with gray buildings held by Ukrainian soldiers. At their head, Sergeant Katchenko. †Irpin has been shelled for seven days now. Every night the Russians attack with all kinds of weapons: rockets, mortars, rifles… Gentlemen, we have to go to the bomb shelters. It’s very tense.” the officer pauses, hearing of the crash of nearby Russian artillery.

"Irpin is pounded.  Every night the Russians attack with all kinds of weapons: rockets, mortars, cannons...", explains Sergeant Katchenko.  (FRANCE MATHEVON / RADIO FRANCE)

Towards the air-raid shelter in the basement of the building: at the foot of the stairs a corridor leads to a large cellar. About thirty mattresses lie against each other on the floor, bunk beds, provisions. Civilians now live here in a musty smell to protect themselves from Russian attacks.

Among them many old people. Ludmila, 80, does not take off her thick beige coat: “I’m staying here, I can’t go anywhere and I can’t evacuate. Even carrying a bag is difficult at my age. We have nothing here. In the evenings people cook on the fire in the yard and I join in to have something in the stomach. We need help from all over the world. We don’t deserve this!”

The main street of Irpin crosses a ghost town: carcasses in front of partially destroyed buildings, some gutted... (FRANCK MATHEVON / RADIO FRANCE)

It’s time to go. On the way back, a unit of Ukrainian soldiers armed with rocket launchers takes to the main street: they take the path of the fighting a few hundred meters away.

In the hell of Irpin under the bombs. The report of Franck Mathevon and Jérémy Tuil

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