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Through fire, explosions and gunfire: evacuation of people from Vovchansk (photo report)

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Estimated Reading Time: 4 min

Vovchansk in Kharkiv Region and the nearby villages are constantly under fire. The front line can be heard within the city itself, amidst explosions and gunfire.

According to Oleh Synehubov, head of the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration, the russians are relentlessly bombarding Vovchansk with all available weapons:

«Vovchansk. The enemy is constantly employing different tactics, attempting to encircle or semi-encircle. Sometimes, separate groups emerge from the eastern and southern directions, but they are swiftly dealt with. Currently, the enemy’s advance is being halted. A battle rages in the north of the city, with street skirmishes unfolding. This marks the outskirts. The enemy has initiated the destruction of the city, utilizing tanks and artillery. It is impossible to remain there.«

Destruction in Vovchansk, Kharkiv Region / Anna Chernenko / Hromadske Radio

Approximately 200 people still remain in Vovchansk. The evacuation teams are proceeding to the addresses of the applicants, while also picking up individuals along the roads. Occasionally, they must knock on the doors of vacant houses to ensure no one is left behind.

Vovchansk, Kharkiv Region. Local residents evacuate from russian shelling / Photo: Anna Chernenko/Hromadske Radio

The roads and forest belts on the outskirts of Vovchansk are engulfed in smoke from fires caused by shelling. The asphalt is littered with shells. Oleksiy Kharkivskyi, head of the response sector of the Chuhuiv police department, is among the first individuals to return to Vovchansk after the city was liberated from the Ukrainian armed forces. The law enforcement officer emphasizes that such a situation has never occurred before.

«Vovchansk is being mercilessly destroyed, bombarded with rocket-propelled grenades, artillery, mortars, and there are skirmishes with small arms on the northern outskirts of the city. Tanks are shelling the city, wreaking havoc wherever they go», — the policeman reported.

Fires in Vovchansk due to shelling/Photo: Anna Chernenko/Hromadske Radio
Fires in Vovchansk due to shelling/Photo: Anna Chernenko/Hromadske Radio

Therefore, evacuation transport operates between the settlements of Vovchansk and the initial security location with only intermittent breaks during the night. Since the morning of May 10, over 7,000 individuals have been evacuated from the shelling. Additionally, many more people have left on their own accord, according to Maksym Stetsyn, head of the police department:

«People have begun leaving more actively due to the increased frequency of shelling in the city. We are coordinating the evacuation efforts in collaboration with volunteers and the military administration», — Maksym Stetsyn explained.

Vovchansk, Kharkiv region. Local residents evacuate from russian shelling / Photo: Anna Chernenko/Hromadske Radio

Police officers have come under fire multiple times, according to Oleksiy Kharkivskyi:

«We’ve been targeted, but we’re okay. It was close, but we managed to leave safely. We brought a few people from Vovchanski Khutory, which is farther away from Vovchansk, closer to the russian federation, to the right of Vovchansk. We evacuated seven people from there».

Valentyna leaves Vovchansk with a few bags and a cat. Upon reaching the first safe location, she mentions that she had never left the city before. Until now, nothing had compelled her to leave, but the current situation is different.

«It’s been incredibly loud these past 2-3 days. Planes are dropping bombs. I can’t even begin to describe how many houses have been destroyed. Despite this, there are still people there. I don’t know what they’re waiting for, but they chose to stay», — she expresses.

For Olha, this evacuation is also her first. She watched her house get destroyed right before her eyes as shells hit it twice.

«At half past four, it struck, and half of the house was demolished. And now, half of it is gone. I grabbed the cat but left the dog. The dog followed me, chased me… Where am I going to take him – he’s so big. It’s heartbreaking, really», — Olha shares.

Vovchansk, Kharkiv region. Local residents evacuate from russian shelling / Photo: Anna Chernenko, Hromadske Radio

Medical workers, the State Emergency Service and utility workers were also evacuated from Vovchansk. They cannot carry out any work in the city because it is dangerous. The administration emphasises that the enemy considers their transport a priority target.

Currently, there are several people in the Vovchansk community who have been taken prisoner by the russians. This information is being verified. The administration cannot say what exactly is a grey zone in the vicinity of Vovchansk, as there are fierce battles for the territory, says Tamaz Gambarashvili, head of the Vovchansk military administration:

«The military is working, yes, there are attempts to enter, but it is all repelled. Thanks to our Armed Forces. So far, the situation is stable», — said Tamaz Gambarashvili.

Anna Chernenko, Kharkiv, Hromadske Radio

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