Russian Forces Capture First City in Battle

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Russian forces have seized the city of Kreminna in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from the city, the regional governor has said, reports The Guardian.

Attack on Kreminna

Kreminna, a city of more than 18,000 people about 350 miles (560km) south-east of the capital, Kyiv, appears to be the first city captured in a Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine.

“Kreminna is under the control of the ‘Orcs’ [Russians]. They have entered the city,” Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, told a briefing on Tuesday. “Our defenders had to withdraw. They have entrenched themselves in new positions and continue to fight the Russian army.”

He said Russian forces had attacked “from all sides”.

“It is impossible to calculate the number of dead among the civilian population. We have official statistics – about 200 dead – but in reality there are many more,” he said, without making it clear what period the estimated death toll covered.

Russia denies targeting civilians.

Evacuating residents

Evacuated residents from the city have said they are unable to reach relatives and friends there.

Olena Stetsenko, the head of the City Korupus volunteer organisation located in Kreminna, was evacuated from the city in mid-March. Stetsenko was one of the last to reach someone inside the city before her mobile signal was fully cut off at lunchtime on Monday, she said, hours after Russian forces reportedly took the city.

There has been a pattern of Ukrainian towns and villages losing mobile connection shortly after falling under Russian occupation.

“My relative said [on Monday] that there were Russian planes and helicopters flying over the town,” said Stetsenko. “They said that [the Russians] were using every single type of heavy equipment: grads [rocket launchers], tanks.

“As of yesterday, they were on the outskirts of the city and there was street fighting going on. The [Russians] are afraid to come into the city because of mines,” said Stetsenko, who estimates there are about 3,500 residents left in the city.

More dangerous detour

In Kreminna’s centre on Saturday, a white armoured bus pulled up on an unassuming street corner and civilians dashed out of basements under scuffed apartment blocks towards the vehicle, clutching bags and pets in their arms. The conductor of the armoured evacuation bus, being run by the local NGO Vostok SOS, crammed their belongings into the hold.

The 17 evacuees hugged loved ones and said teary goodbyes to the backdrop of not so distant booms. Those who stayed watched the bus pull away from the cover of the arches of Soviet-era apartment blocks.

A stone’s throw away from the pickup point in Kreminna, debris from a recent attack blocked access and the bus had to take a longer and more dangerous detour around the city under the constant threat of more incoming artillery rounds.

An elderly man who has trouble walking and with his eyesight was led towards the bus by a younger man. A tense group effort was made to lift him on to the bus and get his legs into a position where was able to sit down inside. The bus then collected a middle-aged woman, who was accompanied by a man who kissed her goodbye in the aisle before jumping off.

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Source: The Guardian

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