Residents fleeing the city near Kyiv come under fire

Local residents flee the city of Irpin after heavy shells landed in the locals' only escape route as Russian troops advance towards the capital Kyiv in Irpin
Local residents flee the town of Irpin after heavy shelling landed in the locals’ only escape route as Russian troops advanced towards the capital Kyiv in Irpin, near Kyiv, Ukraine, March 6, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

March 6, 2022

By Carlos Barria and Mehmet Emin Caliskan

IRPIN, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainians fleeing the town of Irpin, just outside Kiev, were fired upon by Russian forces on Sunday and forced to take cover, Reuters witnesses said.

Irpin, some 25 km (16 miles) northwest of the capital, has seen heavy fighting in recent days. Russia’s military is closing in on Kyiv, where around 3.4 million people lived before the invasion sparked an exodus of civilians.

Irpin residents scurried down the sidewalks with children, luggage and pets as they walked to waiting buses and cars that would take them further from the clashes.

Soldiers and roommates helped elderly men and women who had fallen behind. Some people crouched as explosions, apparently from mortar shells, went off nearby.

Reuters reporters saw no casualties from the shelling, but several news outlets said at least three people were killed – a woman and two children.

The New York Times published a photo =webp, it said, was about four family members – a woman, a man and two children – who were lying on the ground in Irpin.

The caption said they were trying to flee when a mortar struck and that the father, who was being tended to by Ukrainian soldiers in the picture, was the only one who still had a pulse.

Reuters could not independently verify what happened.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said on Sunday it would continue the evacuation of civilians from Irpin following the recent shelling of the city and its surroundings.

The State Emergency Medical Service also said it is putting up tents to get medical supplies to anyone who needs them.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed more than 1.5 million people to flee to neighboring countries in Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said on Sunday.

Millions more were internally displaced, trying to get to the relative safety of western Ukraine.

barricades and ditches

In Kyiv itself, Ukrainian soldiers reinforced defenses by digging trenches, blocking roads and working with civil defense units while Russian forces bombed the surrounding areas.

As the armed forces and civilian volunteers dug in, thousands of people continued to try to flee the city as fears of a full-scale attack mounted.

Russia has concentrated much of its firepower on the south and east of the country since beginning its attack on February 24, besieging cities like Mariupol and Kharkiv with shelling and airstrikes and inflicting extensive damage and casualties.

Kyiv has been spared the worst of the fighting so far, but fierce fighting raged in neighboring towns and villages, and Russia’s Defense Ministry released footage of some of its tracked vehicles cruising near the capital on Sunday.

Video provided by Ukraine’s armed forces, captured in the Kyiv region on Saturday, showed Ukraine’s efforts to defend the capital, with stacks of sandbags and concrete slabs being laid across a main road where Ukrainian soldiers were checking passing cars.

A minor road was blocked by metal “Hedgehog” anti-tank obstacles and machine gun emplacements had been set up. Dozens of Molotov cocktails have been stockpiled by civilians who have vowed to join the fight to protect Kiev.

Russia is calling its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” aimed at destroying its neighbor’s military capabilities and capturing what it sees as dangerous nationalists.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy remains in Ukraine and has called on his people to defend their country.

Kateryna Laskari, an executive at a production company, left her hometown of Kyiv shortly after the invasion began.

She reached a small village 50 km away where her family has a house and stayed there with her three-year-old son Simon, her pregnant sister who will give birth in two weeks and her parents.

“Of course, like everyone, I’m scared, but I have so many people to be responsible for. I’m responsible for my family, I’m responsible for my business,” she told Reuters via Zoom.

“But to tell the truth, I thought I would be even more scared. Now I feel like a soldier. I feel like I have a lot of energy to just fight because I know we’re going to win.”

(Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Kyiv and Aleksandra Michalska in New York, writing by Mike Collett-White, editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Frances Kerry) Residents fleeing the city near Kyiv come under fire

Bobby Allyn

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