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Russian attacks have threatened to cut off Bakhmut and brought the war dangerously close to home for the devastated city’s remaining residents. Months of heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine have seen most able-bodied people flee the area, leaving the old and more vulnerable stuck awaiting evacuation from surrounding villages and towns.
With fighting drawing nearer by the day, one Ukrainian woman teamed up with a group of foreign volunteers for a rescue mission to evacuate her 92-year-old mother Alexandra Zhytnik from the town of Chasiv Yar which lies to the east of Bakhmut.
71-year-old Nadezhda Mayboroda had to struggle to convince her mother that the time had come to flee her home.
Ms Mayboroda told the Telegraph: “We wanted to go yesterday but we weren’t ready,
“She doesn’t really know what is going on. She’s just afraid. She thinks maybe someone will come to kill her.”
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The volunteers who arrived to pick up Ms Mayboroda’s mother on Tuesday were called Sakke and Vassa and they had come along as part of an organization called Finnish Rescue Team.
Ms Mayboroda reassured her mother, who struggled to work out that the men where there to help tale her to safety.
She said: “Mum, the boys are here to help. They’re good boys, they’re just foreigners, they don’t know our language,
Her mother’s flat had been left without heating or electricity while the block across the road had suffered a direct hit.
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After being carefully carried down the stairs of her flat to a waiting van, Ms Zhytnik eventually agreed to enter the waiting van after words of encouragement from her daughter.
Elsewhere another resident Ivan Setovsky, 55, required no encouragement to leave the town.
The paramedic said: “We had armoured vests and helmets and all that, But you have to assess the situation. We’re not gurus who know what’s going to happen, and we don’t want to get ourselves killed either.
“So you go and look and try to judge, and if it seems safe enough you go in,” he said of calls to the sites of the intermittent shelling and missile attacks on the town.”
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Russian shelling of Bakhmut killed at least five civilians and wounded 10 on Tuesday, Ukraine’s presidential office said Wednesday.
The regional governor of Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko, posted images of the aftermath of the shelling, showing huge black holes in residential buildings in the embattled city. He said Russia is “actively deploying new military personnel to the region.”
Donetsk was one of four provinces that Russia illegally annexed in the fall, but controls only about half of it. To take the remaining half, Russian forces have no choice but to go through Bakhmut, the only approach to bigger Ukrainian-held cities. Russian forces have been trying for months to capture Bakhmut.
Moscow-installed authorities in Donetsk claimed Russian troops are “closing the ring” around the city.
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