(Reuters) – Lysychansk was once a city of a 100,000 people in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, but it now lies in ruins after its fall to Russian forces with many residents still living in bomb shelters and basements.
The city was eerily quiet on Tuesday with scorched buildings, overturned vehicles and rubble a testament to the ferocity of the battle it has endured.
Tatiana Glushenko, a 45-year-old Lysychansk resident, told Reuters there were people still in basements and bomb shelters, including children and the elderly.
Glushenko said she and her family had decided to stay in Lysychansk on worries about safety in other parts of Ukraine.
“All of Ukraine is being shelled: western Ukraine, central Ukraine, Dnipro, Kyiv, everywhere. So we decided not to risk our lives and stay here, at home at least,” she said.
But Glushenko is hopeful that peace will return to her city and “that there will be some order”.
Since abandoning an assault on the capital Kyiv earlier in its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has concentrated its military operation on the industrial Donbas heartland that comprises the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where Moscow-backed separatist proxies have been fighting Ukraine since 2014.
Russia said the capture of Lysychansk on Sunday, about a week after the fall of twin city Sievierdonetsk, gives it control of Luhansk – a major goal of the war.
Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, calling it a “special military operation” to ensure Russian security and protect Russian-speaking people in Ukraine.
Russia says it does not target civilians, but the near five-month war has killed thousands, displaced millions and flattened cities, particularly in Russian-speaking areas in the east and southeast.
For elderly Lysychansk resident Evgenia, who did not provide her last name, the prospect of rebuilding rtheir home from the ruins left behind is a daunting task.
“The roof is broken. You have to fix it, but how and how do you pay for it? Where? From who? Winter is coming soon too, my dear,” said Evgenia, sitting in a dark shelter.
(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Himani Sarkar; Editing by Michael Perry)