In Seversk, a major Ukrainian city near the new eastern front, a sense of abandonment has gripped residents who “try to survive” in basements at night and in search of water, food, supplies and medicines during the day.
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“Everyone suffers. We’re trying to survive,” says Nina, 64, a pensioner who pushes her bike. “There’s no water [courante], no gas, no electricity. We’ve been living under bombs for three months, it’s the Stone Age,” she says.
A mobile truck offers Polish goods and groceries, bread, sausage, camp stove refills. Local residents gather around the vehicle as the sustained rumble of Grad rockets is heard.
“Of course it’s expensive,” says Nina.
This small town in Donbass in eastern Ukraine looks like a village with its one-story houses on dusty streets. The last big city before the front is the new border between Russia and Ukraine.
Throughout the day, Ukrainian military vehicles, including American military all-terrain vehicles (Humvees) and the latest generation American and Soviet-style howitzers, drive back and forth. Also tanks, support vehicles and ambulances.
Ukrainian troops, who left devastated and now Russian-occupied Severodonetsk, are now fighting at Lysytchansk on the opposite bank of the Donets River.
In Seversk, the residents who still live there, including many pensioners, have the impression that Kyiv has abandoned them.
“The city is absolutely dead and we would like to live a little longer,” laments Marina, 63, a pensioner. “They’re just killing us, it’s dangerous everywhere,” and “nobody needs us, there’s no help from the government, Ukraine has forgotten us.”
“We don’t live, we survive,” laments another woman, Polina, 60, in a flashy purple tracksuit.
“It’s been rolling all day,” notes a police officer near a checkpoint who is observing “movements today” after three vehicles passed, mostly evacuating the elderly, women and children.
Dirty smoke rises after a Ukrainian missile was launched.
Humanitarian aid is also sent. Three Red Cross trucks arrive at Seversk City Hall and unload boxes of food, including oil, tea, flour and hygiene products, AFP journalists noted.
A city official, Svetlana Severin, is demanding more candles, matches and flashlights from the Red Cross. “Batteries are in high demand,” she says.
The aid boxes are stored and the distribution is organized alternately on certain days of the month to avoid crowds, according to Mme Severin.
Near the mobile truck, however, an old lady is outraged that she has no help. She asks for medicine for her heart.
“People need candles, they spend the night in their basement,” describes social worker Svetlana Meloshchenko, who makes her rounds with water from milk cans and distributes candles, biscuits and liquid soap.
“There are many small children, old or disabled people,” she says, and also “many diabetics”: “Medication is provided in the hospital, but that’s not enough.”
Nearby, in an abandoned gas station, Ukrainian soldiers are taking a break. They chew bread and sausages, submachine guns at their feet. They say coming and going from the front without giving details.
“Our cause is just,” insists a young soldier. A bearded elder adds with a smile: “We don’t watch the news. If the news is really good, we will surely hear about it.