Residents fleeing town near Kiev caught in shelling


IRPIN, Ukraine, March 6 (Reuters) – Ukrainians fleeing the town of Irpin just outside Kiev were caught in a bombardment by Russian forces on Sunday and forced to dive for safety, officials said. Reuters witnesses.

Irpin, about 25 km (16 miles) northwest of the capital, has seen intense fighting in recent days. The Russian army is closing in on Kiev, which was home to around 3.4 million people before the invasion triggered a mass exodus of civilians.

Residents of Irpin rushed along the sidewalks, clutching children, luggage and pets as they made their way towards waiting buses and cars that would steer them away from the clashes.

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Soldiers and fellow citizens helped elderly men and women who were lagging behind. Some people hunkered down as explosions occurred nearby, apparently mortar shells.

Reuters reporters did not witness any casualties in the bombardment, but several news outlets said at least three people were killed – a woman and two children.

The New York Times posted a photo of four members of a family – a mother, a father and two children – lying on the ground in Irpin.

The caption said they were trying to flee when a mortar hit, and the father, being treated by Ukrainian soldiers in the image, was the only one who still had a pulse.

Reuters could not independently verify what happened.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted more than 1.5 million people to flee to neighboring countries in Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.

Millions of other internally displaced people are trying to reach the relative safety of western Ukraine.

BARRICADES AND TRENCHES

In Kiev itself, Ukrainian soldiers bolstered defenses by digging trenches, blocking roads and liaising with civil defense units as Russian forces bombarded surrounding areas.

As armed forces and civilian volunteers dug in, thousands continued to try to flee the city as fears of an all-out assault mounted.

Russia has focused much of its firepower on the south and east of the country since its assault began on February 24, besieging cities like Mariupol and Kharkiv with shelling and airstrikes and causing major damage and losses.

Kyiv has so far been spared the worst of the fighting, but intense battles have raged in nearby towns and villages and the Russian Defense Ministry released images of some of its military tracked vehicles in motion on Sunday. near the capital.

Video provided by the Ukrainian Armed Forces taken in the Kyiv region on Saturday shows Ukrainian efforts to defend the capital, with piles of sandbags and concrete slabs laid on a main road where Ukrainian soldiers check passing cars .

A smaller road was blocked by metal “hedgehog” anti-tank barriers and machine gun positions had been erected. Civilians who have sworn to join the battle to protect Kiev have stockpiled dozens of Molotov cocktails.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” aimed at destroying its neighbor’s military capabilities and capturing what it sees as dangerous nationalists.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy remains in Ukraine and called on his people to defend their country.

Kateryna Laskari, a production company executive, left her hometown of Kiev soon after the invasion began.

She reached a small village 50 km (31 miles) away where her family has a home, and stayed there with her three-year-old son Simon, her pregnant sister, who is due in two weeks, and their parents.

“Of course I’m scared like everyone else, but I have so many people I’m responsible for. I’m responsible for my family, I’m responsible for my business,” she told Reuters via Zoom. .

“But to tell the truth, I thought I would be even more scared. Now I feel like a soldier. I feel like I have a lot of energy to just fight, because I know we are going to win. “

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Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic in Kyiv and Aleksandra Michalska in New York; Written by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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