Residents of Ukraine’s Irpin say time may be running out to get to safety

Russian forces are occupying about 30 per cent of the town



AFP
AFP

By Reuters

Published: Mon 7 Mar 2022, 10:39 PM

Hundreds of people streamed out of Irpin on Monday to escape Russian forces advancing towards the nearby Ukrainian capital Kyiv, some saying there were only a few residents left in the town badly damaged by recent shelling.

The numbers crossing the Irpin river and moving south towards Kyiv were lower than on recent days, although their passage was easier than on Sunday when heavy shelling and mortar fire killed at least four civilians trying to flee.

Ukrainian troops have been fighting Russian forces around Irpin, some 25km (15 miles) northwest of Kyiv, for days, and some residents feared it was only a matter of time before local defences crumbled.

“There was heavy shelling in Irpin,” Galya Fedorchuk told Reuters after crossing the river via a narrow wooden plank. Ukrainian forces have destroyed the main bridge to slow the Russian advance, complicating efforts to get thousands of people to safety.

“They (the Russians) fired at houses, people,” she added. “A woman and a 13-year-old child died. A few people are left here. It is hard and scary."

Some 1.7 million people have fled Ukraine into neighbouring countries since the conflict began on February 24, according to the United Nations, and many more remain trapped in towns and cities under siege.

Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians. It calls the campaign a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and remove leaders it describes as dangerous nationalists.

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Dozens of Irpin residents carrying children, rucksacks and pets walked or ran along a road strewn with debris and lined with burned-out cars and buildings - evidence of the ferocity of Sunday’s bombardment.

One man pushed a child in a pram while another helped an elderly woman to cross the river. Soldiers checked people’s papers before ushering them on.

Asked why it had taken her until now to flee, one woman said local authorities had issued a statement warning that it was their last chance to get out.

Local officials said on Monday that civilians had been able to evacuate Irpin without coming under fire. Russian forces were occupying about 30 per cent of the town, but everything else there was under Ukrainian control, they added.


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