The last one to leave Irpin: "It's better not to tell what I saw" Listen to this article

Street fighting has closed in Irpin, a strategic city on the outskirts of Kyiv and a symbol of resistance to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Last Kremlin troops left on Sunday, according to multiple evidence from neighbors that were evacuated to the capital this Wednesday. On Monday, local officials declared victory by declaring that the city was under their control. The urban warfare is over, but there have been no clashes in this north-west of the country’s main city. That’s what residents who can continue to escape. From many kilometers away, day and night, the sounds of explosions and explosions keep coming. When they leave the civilians themselves report that artillery shells are raining on their homes and that their last hours in Irpin have been hell. Some describe painful scenes, such as when Russian soldiers prevented them from burying their dead neighbors, or bizarre scenes, such as when they sang guitar in hand or practiced fencing.

“The last time we saw Russian soldiers was three days ago. They made us all stand next to a wall, they took our mobiles and broke them,” says Oleksandr, 45, who holds his cat Tom inside a bag in his right hand. Like other evacuations, dirt on the face and neck, as well as dirty nails show that cleanliness took a back seat several days ago. Those evacuated say they have been without electricity, water or gas for weeks.

Some had to wait in their private cars for volunteers to arrive in their neighborhoods, once freed from Russian troops, to be rescued. Thus they managed to escape on Wednesday morning, leaning on the prosthetic left leg of 64-year-old Valery, his wife and son. On March 5 the Russians arrived in the city, which is now “empty” and “destroyed”, says Valerie as he combines one cigarette with another. His wife regrets that she had not taken a bath for a month and had to survive by drawing water from a well and cooking food on a candle. He said the evacuation was done amid intense fighting. “Now there are no Russians in the city, but the bombing is taking place. A missile has hit our neighbours’ house and got burnt,” the woman explains with tears behind her glasses.

64-year-old Valery was taken this Wednesday from Irpin to Kivo
64-year-old Valery was taken this Wednesday from Irpin to Kivoluis de vega

Accounts compiled by EL PAÍS match the date of the Russians’ departure and the intense fighting experienced by Irpin over the past few hours, despite a promise made by Moscow in talks with Ukrainian representatives held in Istanbul on Tuesday. A commitment to reduce its attacks emerged in the vicinity of the Ukrainian capital. A commitment that has not been fulfilled according to these evidences. “It looked like things were calm, but today we have had a very serious bombing,” she denounced on Wednesday.

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Ambulances and vans move steady towards Kyiv’s first homes with residents of Irpin of all ages. A small reception center is set up next to a school. Many arrive on a stretcher or wheelchair. Boredom and tiredness cover the faces of many. There are some who do not even want to answer the journalists. In addition to helping those who need it, many police officers check their belongings and in some cases their documents. They don’t want any Russian soldiers left behind after the withdrawal of their troops to present themselves as neighbors. None of the people present there are bothered by the constant discussion of the fight. Several days have passed between the shootings.

“The Russians came from day one, they stole and destroyed everything. They broke all our cell phones, all our computers”, condemned the 43-year-old Vita. He has left Irpin in the middle of a “horrific bombing” that set his house on fire. They have an unexploded shell on their roof since the first days of March. Enraged, Vita recalls how the army prevented them from burying the five bodies that had been lying on the road for a week. They were not allowed into the woods until then and could not be buried until the Ukrainian army, who had to destroy the area, reached the site. “We didn’t hear any news, we didn’t have cell phones, computers, electricity or gas…”.

Residents of Irpin arriving on the outskirts of Kyiv in the afternoon on Wednesday
Residents of Irpin arriving on the outskirts of Kyiv in the afternoon on Wednesdayluis de vega

Telling one misfortune after another these weeks, Vita accidentally meets a neighbor who has just been evicted. The two hug each other tightly while weeping emotionally. The Vita states that they were transferred to a cellar where they were guarded by the Russians, who also used the courtyard of the house for cooking and sometimes spent time playing the guitar or practicing fencing. . Inside Irpin, he says, there are still people who have nowhere to go or have any relatives.

Dozens of Dogs Abandoned During the War

Several dozen dogs have also arrived in Kyiv who, in the midst of the war, fled a shelter where they were waiting to be adopted in Irpin. About twenty of them are tied to one side of the school. They are controlled by a group of volunteers who rescue them when the authorities allow them entry. There are also dogs from the families who lost them in the chaos of the evacuation and are now trying to find their owners, explains Olga while petting one of them on the nose.

Dogs rescued from a shelter in Irpin
Dogs rescued from a shelter in Irpinluis de vega

Since the start of the war, the city of about 60,000 inhabitants, located about twenty kilometers from the center of Kyiv, has been the scene of intense fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces. Over the days, it has become the key point that the Kremlin troops have not managed to pass. The first thing the Ukrainian army did on February 25, the day after the offensive began, was to blow up the highway bridge connecting the capital to Irpin. It complicates the humanitarian corridor through which refugees flee, but has also acted as a brake against the enemy’s rapid advance.

In front of the school, which serves as a reception, a frustrated man waits to sit next to the stuff he’s managed to pull out. He prefers to remain silent when asked. He gets up and turns, giving a short answer: “What I saw, it’s better not to tell.”

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