Frenzied aid run in Ukrainian town amid Russian bombs

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After retreating from the Kyiv area, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow’s main goal is to take the whole of the Donbas region

Gripping a match between his teeth and the steering wheel with both hands, Nikolai Mavsissan gives fair warning to passengers before embarking on a frenzied and dangerous humanitarian mission in eastern Ukraine.  

“I’m going to drive very quickly,” says the young buzz-cut driver in a black jacket, turning his van in the direction of Russian troops on a forest road towards the front line.

Their lightning mission has not been coordinated with Russian troops, whose relentless shelling has reduced hamlets around Lyman to rubble.

Lyman is a ghost town. Trees are blossoming and Russian strikes arrive with a whistle as Mavsissan winds through the town’s deserted streets.

“Yes, we’ll be there in two minutes,” says local police chief Igor Onenevenko, sending a voice message by phone to a family expecting a delivery of bread. 

Four civilians were killed and seven more injured on strikes on the town, its mayor told AFP.

“Half of the town is destroyed,” said a local, lifting luggage on the roof of his beat-up Soviet-designed red Lada car.

He wasn’t the only one getting out while he could. 

– ‘We’ll have to blow it up’ –

The glory days of the former industrial centre with a pre-war population of around 20,000 people may be gone, but it remains a key prize for Russian forces. 

A railway bridge that spans the Donets river on the way to Sloviansk was already destroyed last week by a Russian rocket, Ukrainian soldiers told AFP.

A road bridge running parallel was partially destroyed Monday evening, AFP reporters saw. 

In the woods nearby, a unit of military engineers waits for orders to blow the bridge.

Kyiv’s army hopes destroying the bridge could win them two weeks before Russian troops find a route to a showdown for Sloviansk.

dar-jbr/oc/ach 

Originally published as Frenzied aid run in Ukrainian town amid Russian bombs


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