Ukrainians evacuate Kyiv suburbs amid deepening crisis – Press Enterprise


Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — Civilians trying to escape Russian shelling on the outskirts of Kyiv streamed toward the capital on Wednesday, some of them scooting their way across the slippery wooden planks of a makeshift bridge to re-enter the besieged towns to evacuate Ukraine.

The exodus to the capital came amid warnings from Western officials that Moscow’s invasion could take a more brutal and indiscriminate turn.

Some of the civilians came from the town of Irpin in the north-eastern suburbs of Kyiv and were forced to use the makeshift bridge after Ukrainians blew up the concrete bridge linking the towns to slow the Russian advance.

With sporadic gunfire ringing behind them, firefighters dragged an elderly man to safety in a wheelbarrow, a child grabbed the hand of a helping soldier, and a woman pushed forward with a fluffy cat in her winter coat. On the other side, they trudged past a wrecked van with the words “Our Ukraine” written on the windows.

“We only have a short window of opportunity at the moment,” said Yevhen Nyshchuk, a member of Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces. “Even if there is a ceasefire, there is a high risk that shells will fall at any time.”

Authorities announced the new ceasefire on Wednesday morning to allow thousands of civilians to flee the towns around Kyiv, as well as the southern cities of Mariupol, Enerhodar and Volnovakha, Izyum in the east and Sumy in the northeast. Previous attempts to set up safe evacuation corridors largely failed due to Russian attacks.

It wasn’t immediately clear if anyone could leave other cities, but people poured out of Kiev’s suburbs even as explosions could be heard in the capital and air raid sirens rang out repeatedly.

In the besieged city of Mariupol, local authorities hastened to bury the dead in a mass grave. In one of the city’s old cemeteries, city workers dug a ditch about 25 meters long and pushed corpses wrapped in carpets or sacks over the edge with the sign of the cross.

Thousands of people, both civilians and soldiers, are said to have been killed in the two weeks of fighting since President Vladimir Putin’s forces invaded. The UN estimates that more than 2 million people have fled the country, the largest flow of refugees in Europe since the end of World War II.

The fighting cut power to the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, raising safety concerns about the spent nuclear fuel that is stored at the site and must be kept cool. However, the UN nuclear regulatory agency said it sees “no critical safety implications” from the blackout.

The crisis in Ukraine is likely to worsen as Russian forces step up their bombing of cities in response to stronger than expected resistance. CIA Director William Burns said on Tuesday that Russian casualties were “far in excess of the expectations” of Putin and his generals.

An increased push by Russian forces could mean “an ugly next few weeks,” Burns told a congressional committee, warning that Putin is likely to “crush Ukraine’s military without regard for civilian casualties.”

Britain’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday fighting continued northwest of Kyiv. The cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol were heavily shelled and remained encircled by Russian forces.

Russian forces are placing military equipment on farms and amid apartment buildings in the northern city of Chernihiv, the Ukrainian military said. To the south, plainclothes Russians were advancing on the city of Mykolaiv, a Black Sea shipbuilding center of half a million people, sources said.

The Ukrainian military, meanwhile, is building up defenses in cities to the north, south and east, and forces around Kyiv are “holding the line” against the Russian offensive, authorities said.

A spate of airstrike alerts Wednesday morning urged residents of Kyiv to seek shelter in air raid shelters for fear of incoming missiles. Explosions were later heard.

In Irpin, a town of 60,000, police and soldiers helped elderly residents from their homes. A man was hauled out of a damaged building on a makeshift stretcher, while another was wheeled into Kyiv in a shopping trolley. Residents fleeing said they had been without electricity and water for the past four days.

Regional administration head Oleksiy Kuleba said the crisis for civilians was deepening in and around Kyiv, with the situation in the suburbs being particularly dire.

“Russia is artificially creating a humanitarian crisis in the Kyiv region, thwarting the evacuation of people and continuing to shell and bomb small communities,” he said.

The situation is even worse in Mariupol, a strategic city of 430,000 on the Azov Sea that has been encircled by Russian forces for the past week.

Efforts to evacuate residents and deliver much-needed food, water and medicine fell through Tuesday as Ukrainians said there were continued Russian attacks.

The city took advantage of a lull on Wednesday to hastily bury 70 people. Some were soldiers, but most were civilians.

The work was carried out efficiently and without ceremony. No mourners were present, no families wishing to say goodbye.

A woman stood at the gate of the cemetery and asked if her mother was among the buried. She was.


Karmanau reported from Lemberg, Ukraine. Associated Press journalists Felipe Dana and Andrew Drake in Kyiv contributed to this report along with reporters from around the world.


Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis at


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