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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

‘No city, just ruins’: A desperate plea from a city on the front line

Russian soldiers dominate the north of the city; Ukrainian forces hold the south. And caught in the centre of violent combat are thousands of people imprisoned in growing risk, virtually shut off from the world.

Communication with those who remain in the city has been difficult amid severe energy cuts and internet disruptions. But in one message on Wednesday, a young lady imprisoned in Izyum with her boyfriend revealed the horrors.

“There is basically no city, just ruins,” the lady, Anastasia Onishchuk, said in a brief audio clip in which she recounted destroyed buildings and a mounting number of dead.

Izyum sits in a vital position near the Donbas area, and its takeover might enable Russia to unite its troops in northeast and southeast Ukraine. Western military experts suggest that Russian soldiers have strengthened their presence in the Izyum region in recent days.

Ms. Onishchuk has been stranded there for weeks with her lover, Anton Glazunov, after the two, who are both 21 and actors, fled to the city from their home in Kharkiv.

“We are fortunate because we live on the first level, there is a basement below us and really kind neighbours who help,” she added.

Her family concerns that she may not make it out alive to be reunited with them in their home city, Kryvyi Rih, according to her brother, Nikita Onishchuk, who shared more details of her tale.

He woke up on Feb. 24 to calls from his sister telling that Kharkiv was being bombarded. The pair had first attempted to leave to Mr. Glazunov’s parents’ hamlet but couldn’t make it. Because a buddy travelling with them was from Izyum, they chose to go there.

“Now there is no water, power, gas, food, communication,” Mr. Onishchuk added. “They are incredibly fortunate that the neighbours have a generator and can occasionally charge her phone to reach us.”

The city has been separated by the river that flows through it since the bridges in the city were destroyed, the leader of the Kharkiv regional military administration informed the official Ukrainian news agency.

In an interview broadcast by the authorities on Monday, the mayor of Izyum, Valery Marchenko, declared, “There is no more city.”

“Izyum is now Mariupol in miniature,” he added, referring to the southern Ukrainian city that has likewise fallen into a humanitarian disaster during a lengthy Russian siege.

In Izyum, hospitals, schools and residences have been destroyed, over 80 percent of its multistory residential structures are in ruins, and the city is being shelled by artillery and warplanes, he continued.

There have been no humanitarian passages out of the city for weeks for anyone seeking to flee, Mr. Marchenko said, and it has been hard to send assistance in. Part of the city has been entirely captured by Russian soldiers and shut off from communications, he added.

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