SOLEDAR, UKRAINE—An explosion covered the sky above the apartment building we were standing in. They were thermite cluster bombs launched by multiple Russian long-range rocket systems, spreading a glowing flame on their targets. That day, their target was us.
A thick mass of flames, hot enough to melt steel and concrete, slowly rained down on civilian apartments in the town of Soledar, one of the key battlefields in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region. Vladimir Putin’s army has been fighting for over six months to capture this territory.
The city was a hellscape of destroyed buildings, blaring with incessant artillery fire. Ukrainian troops were desperately searching for cover from underground to underground, and quadcopters her drones were buzzing above us scouting enemy positions. If I was still in that block, I might have been incinerated.
About 15 minutes before the bombing, Darren Roberts, a British military veteran and volunteer aid worker, provides medical attention to Alexander, a 24-year-old Ukrainian civilian who was wounded in the shoulder and arm by Russian artillery fire. rice field. We found him topless, in homemade bandages, lounging on a bench in the courtyard, talking to his mother.
During the five hours we were in town, perhaps ten civilians sat outside watching the destruction. Some hadn’t seen sunlight in months.
Despite the carnage, hundreds of civilians in Soledar, originally a small city of over 10,000 inhabitants, are reluctant to leave. Many people prefer to stay at home because they don’t want to be intimidated by Russians. Older people and people with disabilities have no choice. A loosely organized group of volunteers that The Daily Beast agreed to follow helped evacuate disabled people who were trying to leave on their own.
Russian war chiefs dispute over credit for reportedly taking town
British aid workers Andrew Bagshaw, 48, and Christopher Parry, 28, disappeared from the very town last week in a similar evacuation. The Russian militia Wagner, which is leading the latest attacks in Donbass, posted photos of passports and claimed to have found the body of one of them on Wednesday.
Others seem to have had more nefarious motives for staying. As the volunteers desperately tried to convince Alexander and his mother to move out, three men drove up to the courtyard on mopeds and began taking pictures of our group with their cell phones.Immediately, Darren turned to us and looked really scared for the first time.