Hand-to-hand combat has broken out in the streets of the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, which has been devastated by relentless Russian bombing and shortages of food, water and electricity.
“There is real street fighting now,” a Ukrainian paratrooper named Stas, told AFP. “In some places, there is hand-to-hand combat.”
The paratrooper, who did not provide his full name, said the Russians have staged “a huge column, 200 men, 50 light armored vehicles, several tanks” in the small town.
Russian troops, hoping to advance to the capital of Kyiv, need to make their way through Irpin first.
“We are trying to push them out, but I don’t know if we’ll be fully able to do it,” Stas said. “The situation is very unstable.”
Images from the town show it in ruins. On Sunday, Tatiana Perebeynos, 43, her two children Alise, 9, and Nikita, 18, and a man they were traveling with were killed when Russian forces indiscriminately fired at them as they were fleeing Irpin.
“The city is almost ruined, and the district where I’m living, it’s like there are no houses which were not bombed,” a young mom told Reuters while holding her baby.
“The older people, those who cannot use their feet, they remain,” resident Marina Manfyorova told AFP while heading toward evacuation buses on the other side of the Irpin River.
“They are still hoping to be saved,” she said of the town’s elders, adding that everyone able to walk has fled.
Residents said constant attacks have made living in the town hell. Ukrainian actor-turned-soldier Pasha Lee was killed in action March 6 from a Russian shelling in Irpin.
“The Russians are positioning themselves in residential buildings, apartments, shops,” soldier Konstantyn Lokhmitskiy told AFP. “After that, they started shooting exclusively at civilians. … This is my third war. But this never used to happen. No one shot at civilians back then.”