Kiev, skip the humanitarian corridor: the Russians also seize the buses

Of Lorenzo Cremonesi

The siege around the capital is getting tighter and tighter. Only a small part of the refugees manage to escape from the battle zones. Shooting near the roads, the soldiers blocked dozens of vehicles destined for refugees

The hope that the humanitarian corridor to the capital will work lasts just a few hours. From ten in the morning until early afternoon, but even before dark it becomes evident that the situation is worsening and only a small part of the refugees manage to escape from the areas of the battle. The Russians are firing near the roads, their soldiers have blocked a few dozen yellow buses sent by the municipality of Kiev to rescue the civilians trapped in the neighboring villages in the north-western suburbs hit by the fury of the fighting. “We don’t know what happened. The buses have disappeared and with them also the drivers and civil protection volunteers who were on board to provide assistance. Those who return were beaten up, the Russians took their laptops. Let’s see tomorrow », they tell in the evening from the civil protection offices in the capital.

On the run under the bombs

It is a desperate young mother, who is looking for her two children lost in the chaos of the escape from the village of Vorzel, who summarizes in one image the tragedy of the civilians fleeing under the bombs. It’s cold, but she has an open anorak, she can’t take shelter, she cries, she asks the soldiers for help, takes them by the hands, keeps repeating the names of the two children, runs from car to car among those following hers, gets on the minibuses, begs in the tents of the field infirmary, hoping to see them. “They pulled us out of the cellars, the children were with me. But there was confusion, the drivers pressed to leave immediately and my car was already full of people, they told me that the two children had been put in the car that followed us. But now I can’t find them! »She repeats.

The besieged village

Someone tells her that perhaps they have remained behind, in the hell of the besieged village, she does not know, she cannot telephone, the lines are interrupted. She just has to collapse and wait, she trembles, she can only hope for tomorrow. But will there be tomorrow? Nobody could tell last night. The Russian advance continues and the siege around the capital is getting tighter and tighter. The escape routes change and become more ephemeral from hour to hour. Yesterday morning we had lined up behind the yellow buses. The situation seemed propitious. Despite a short delay with respect to the ceasefire, which according to the Russians should have started at 10, already at 11 we found ourselves about twenty kilometers north of the capital. In front of a shopping area that marks the intersection for the village of Bilohorodka, the military had equipped camp kitchens in the parking lot to provide hot meals and tea, along with mountains of sandwiches and baskets of fruit. But their main concern was to verify the identities of the refugees.

The disputed airport

“We know that the Russians are trying to infiltrate their agents mixed with the masses of displaced persons. It is necessary to block them », they explained. Thousands of civilians were expected from the areas around the disputed Hostomel airport, the villages of Bucha, Tarasove, Vyshhorod, and the northern suburbs of Irpin. But even before one o’clock it was clear that the situation was deteriorating. In the distance, Grad rocket shots. A few hundred refugees arrive shortly thereafter. They all come from the village of Vorzel, the only one who will eventually be partially evacuated. Many use their private cars or those of volunteers. “We had been locked in the cellars for two weeks. Without water, without electricity, in the cold, since the heaters do not work», 36-year-old Inna explains. Next to it is a minivan loaded with children who are guests of a nursing clinic for those born with severe malformations. “We were very worried about not being able to evacuate them, many cannot walk,” says Svetlana, 69, who has been taking care of young patients for decades.

Towards the station

Many cry, they would like to leave immediately for the railway station, to go away, far from the nightmare of war. On the square there are overwhelmingly women, the elderly and children, it seems that the Russians do not let the men and boys leave. Lilla, 38, mother of Nazar aged 7, is moved to hear Italian spoken. Her mother works as a caregiver for a family in Bergamo. But she hasn’t heard it since the start of the war. «The worst bombings were from 1st to 3rd March. Then came the Russian crawlers. Their soldiers broke into the grocery stores, they were hungry, they stole all the edible. We were in the cellar, we avoided meeting them. Their snipers had placed themselves on the roofs and on our balcony on the second floor, they were shooting continuously, ”he says. An old woman who moves on crutches says that all this reminds her of the Second World War when she was a child: “I never thought I would relive at the end of my life what I saw as a child.”

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