Ukraine War: Civilians under attack
(Editor's note: The following was submitted by Khrystyna Dmytryshyn, a resident of Ukraine who spent time in Lamar as a foreign exchangestudent. While in Lamar she helped with stories for the Lamar Democrat prior to her return home. Contributing writers for the article below include Maria-Olesia Tarasova, Mary Kuldoshyna and Daria O. with Editor:Yuliia Dobosevych.)
Russiantroops targeted civilians from the first days of the full-scale war against Ukraine, which started more than a month ago. When Russians understood that Ukraine was defending itself and people didn't want to surrender, they began terrorizing civilians witheven more cruelty when occupiers started feeling excellent resistance from our army and residents. To this day, Russians continue a war against children, pregnant women, elderly and ill people and our own culture. It seems that attacking our country is notenough - they are trying to physically destroy and erase us in our Motherland.
History repeating itself...
Such an atrocious tactic, however, is nothing new. Military experts and analysts point out that the Russian forces have used it many times before. The latest and most prominent example is the bombing of Idlib during the Russian invasion of Syria in 2019. Before any other military actions, Russians attacked civilian areas, in particular targeting 24 hospitals. Later on, the strategy persisted. As a result of the Russian invasion, many Syrian schools, hospitals and houses were damaged or destroyed and hundreds of civilians were killed.
Nowadays, Russian attacks on Ukraine are coordinated by some of the most distinguished generals in Russia, Sergei Shoiguand Valery Gerasimov. The same commanders who ordered the bombings of civilian areas in Syria. Therefore, the amount of civilian objects purposely wrecked during the war in Ukraine almost comes as no surprise.
Victims among civilians around the country...
As of March 28, thousands of Ukrainian civilians were killed or wounded because of the Russian invasion. For now it is impossible to reveal the actual number of victims because, in the cities under siege like Mariupol, there is no way to count the dead. Sometimes the bodies of passed away are left on the streets or buried in mass graves near residential houses. In occupied cities, people are also killed, tortured and kidnapped by Russians.
Officially, at least 143 (+ at least 210 in Mariupol) Ukrainian children were killed by Russian troops, 216 more were wounded, according to the Office of the Attorney General. Also, according to UNICEF, half of the Ukrainian children left their homes (4.3 million out of 7.5 million), 1.8 million children were taken abroadby their parents.
About four days ago, Russian soldiers were charged with the rape of a civilian woman. However, the actual number of such rapes is said to be much larger. Iryna Venediktova (the Prosecutor General of Ukraine) has already given a speech onthis case: "... In one of the villages of Brovary district, this villain [here she talks about a russian soldier] broke into a private house and shot the owner. After that, the drunken occupier and his colleague repeatedly raped the wife of the killed civilian, threatening her with violence and weapons. He even threatened her young child, who was with the victim."
The Prosecutor General of Ukraine also stated that Russian forces use civilians as "human shields", awar crime. There is also a forcible transfer of Ukrainians from enemy-occupied territories to Russia. At least 2,389 children were forcibly transferred in this way. Mariupol has been under siege since the 1st of March. Most of the city is destroyed, people a buried in mass graves right near the houses. Moreover, there is no food, water, heat and data connection anymore. The city has been under constant bombing (including carpet bombing) for almost a month now. The sity of Chernihiv is cut off from the rest of the country, too. These people are alsounder constant attack and are left without heat, food and water supply. Many smaller towns and villages are either cut off and destroyed or occupied by Russians, who terrorize civilians.
Office of the Attorney General launched investigations into over 2,700 war crimes committed by Russian troops. Many of them include harm to civilians, usage of prohibited weapons, at least five facts of ecocide, etc.
Behind each of these numbers of victims there are people who will never laugh, smile or liveanymore. We can eventually rebuild infrastructure, even though it will take years, but we cannot return our children and loved ones back to life. Numbers do not speak nor cry, so we would like to tell you a little about at least a few people behind them:
On March 5, Serhiy Perebyinis last spoke with his wife. On this day his family had to evacuate from Bucha (he could not be with them at that moment as on February 17, he had to go to occupied Donetsk -- his mother fell ill and her condition was severe). In afew hours Serhiy saw on Twitter a photo from Irpin, where an explosion occurred at one of the crossroads. People were lying on the asphalt, but their faces were hidden. His family members did not answer phone calls. Later, journalists released a video showing the bodies of his family: "I recognized my children by their clothes, belongings, suitcases and carriage with our two dogs. I called friends in Kyiv. They said to look for her in the hospital. But the children are lying there.They're dead."
That dayhe lost 9-year-old Alice, her 18-year-old brother Mykyta and their mother Tetiana. They all were killed by russian soldiers.
We would also like to tell you one story of a person who survived, which was shared by Ohmatdyt (Children's Hospital):
"13-year-old Vova was admitted to Ohmatdyt hospital on February 26. He and his family were trying to leave Kyiv when russian soldiers shot their car. The boy's father and his 6-year-old cousin died on the spot. Vova was diagnosed with a gunshot wound to theright half of his face, a fragmentation open fracture of the lower jaw and a fragmentary fracture of the right cheekbone-orbital complex caused by the blast. Ohmatdyt specialists performed a number of complex operations on him. Vova will need a long rehabilitation to fully recover."
Residential buildings and infrastructure under fire...
Even though we will mainly include the latest news (as of March 27/28) in this article, it would be worth remembering the first days of the full-scale war because, since these days it was obvious that russian troops did not target exclusively military facilities. However, they also targeted residential buildings and civilian facilities (as opposed to what the russian government was saying to justify their invasion).
On February 24 - the very first day of the full-scale war, a child died in an explosion during the shelling of residential houses in the Kharkiv region. In Uman, a Russian artillery shell hit the city centre, killing one civilian and injuring at least five. The shelling of a residential district took place in Mariupol. Apartment buildings and private sector buildings were damaged. In Vuhledar, shells from the russian occupiers struck a local hospital, killing four civilians and injuring 10, including medics. Afterthat, two children were killed by russian shelling in the Kherson region. That day approximately 57 Ukrainians were killed and 169 injured.
These are only a part of the news we received on February 24. The next day we received more details about shellingsof residential houses and civilian infrastructure, but the situation also started to become much worse.
As of the last 4-5 days: oil depots and factories have been destroyed by powerful missile strikes in at least four cities and towns: Kalynivka (Kyiv region), Lutsk, Dubno and L'viv, which is the largest city in the western part of Ukraine and it is situated near the border with Poland --- a member state of NATO.
Every night we receive news about many artillery and mortar shellings (for example, 59 shellingonly in the Kharkiv region yesterday) in each of the regions, where there are hot spots, occupation or even in relatively "safe" areas, where russian rockets strike, but not every day.
According to the Minister of Education and Science of Ukraine, as of March 24, russian bombings and shelling damaged 566 educational institutions, 73 of which were utterly destroyed. More than 230 schools and 155 kindergartens were damaged and destroyed educational institutions. The most damaged were in the Donetsk, Kharkiv,Mykolaiv, Sumy, Kyiv, Kherson, Chernihiv regions and Kyiv. In addition, more than 40 children's facilities were destroyed, including medical facilities, art schools, sports facilities and libraries.
According to the Ministry of Development of Communitiesand Territories of Ukraine in 30 days russians destroyed about 4,500 homes, about 100 businesses and 150 health facilities. In Mariupol, 61,200 facilities in the private sector were damaged. The occupiers are deliberately destroying the civil infrastructure of Ukraine. In addition to houses, hospitals, kindergartens and schools, the invaders hit shops, pharmacies, food warehouses and churches. Some cities, towns and villages are declared as mostly or destroyed. Ukraine suffered a one-time loss of $ 564.9 billion due to a full-scale russian invasion and the largest share of this is infrastructure losses - $ 119 billion, according to the Minister of Economy Yulia Svyridenko.
We want to add that animals are also affected by the war, like people they are killedor injured during shelling and bombing, they die in massive fires (for example, at least 32 horses were burned alive in the stables by russians only in Hostomel) and starve in zoos, which are cut off from "safe" territories or are trapped in collapsed buildings. Some volunteers tried to feed such animals and they were murdered by russian troops.
Erasure of the culture and history...
Hostile Russian occupiers do not miss the opportunity to destroy everything related to culture and history brutally. Hence, they violate numerous world agreements on the protection of cultural heritage.
Here are some examples of that:
"The Kharkiv Philharmonic was damaged - a unique architectural monument. The museum in Ivankiv was destroyed. The Kharkiv church was damaged. The church in the Kyiv region was destroyed," said the Minister of Culture and Information Policy Oleksandr Tkachenko.
In addition, in the Zhytomyr region, a monument of national importance was destroyed too - the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, built-in 1862. Also, due to Russian aggression, the palace in Zaporizhzhia was damaged.
Invaders have no conscience and are indifferent to morality since they opened fire on the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center's territory.
"Thesescoundrels are killing Holocaust victims for the second time! We know precisely what we strive for. We will certainly stand firm and restore our beloved Ukraine," said Andriy Yermak, Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.
The occupiers caused another attack that happened on the outskirts of Kharkiv: the rocket they fired landed on the territory of the Memorial for the Victims of Totalitarianism. They also fired on and damaged the Holocaust Memorial in Drobitsky Yar on the outskirts of Kharkiv.
Russian invaders destroyed the building of the Arkhip Kuindzhi Art Museum in Mariupol, which housed the original paintings of world-famous masters: Ivan Aivazovsky, Mykola Hlushchenko, Tetyana Yablonska, Mykhailo Deregus and others. They also burned down the local history museum in the Kyiv region, which housed works by the famous Ukrainian folk artist Maria Pryimachenko. There are more damaged and destroyed historical and cultural monuments and museums.
Moreover, russian terrorists seize and destroy Ukrainianbooks in the temporarily occupied territories that contradict Kremlin propaganda. Stalin and Hitler used thesemethods too.
Russians are especially keen to seek history textbooks and Ukrainian literature on Maidans, JFO and struggles for liberty. When found, the books are destroyed on the spot or taken away in an unknown direction. The invaders compiled a list of names banned from mention, including Mazepa, Petliura and Bandera.
The situations described above are nothing else but pure vandalism and strong gravitation towards wiping out the Ukrainian culture and causing ethnocide and genocide.
Ukrainians go through a lot of psychological struggles for many reasons. We will only briefly discuss it because the grounds are very different.Moreover, they affect not only civilians but soldiers, too.
Due to constant air raids, shellings, bombing, etc., people have to spend a lot of time in air raid shelters, basements or improvised shelters in their houses or what was left of their homes. Sirens are shouting all over the country. Even in the" safest" regions people sometimes have to spend four to seven hours in shelters, or even more. The sleep is disrupted, the daily routine is disrupted, in hot spots and sieges, people don't get enough foodand water or don't get any. We still have snow in some areas of the country, so people who don't have any heating in their houses live in the cold now. It dramatically affects both children's and adults' physical and mental health.
People become afraid ofspecific/sudden/loud sounds, light or even people (for example after tortures, rapes, shellings, etc.). Constant mortal danger exhausts a human organism. Deaths of family members, loved ones or corpses lying on the streets cause so much grief that it cannot leave mental health without damage.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of many consequences of traumatic events of such scale.
Survivor guilt/syndrome is pervasive among Ukrainians who live in "safer" regions, who could escape from hot spots oroccupation or evacuate to other countries (for example, Poland). People feel guilt for being in a safe place, having alive family members and being able to eat or sleep in their beds.
Every day we receive news full of grief and pain orexperience these events ourselves. While writing this article air raid sirens are shouting in our city, warning us about possible airstrikes. We will win this war and we will not become slaves of the russian regime. Yet, the cost is incredibly high - we pay with our own lives. We need your help to save as many people as possible, restore justice and ultimately defeat the evil. We ask for a closed sky so that our children can sleep in beds, not in basements, we ask for support from your government and we arethankful for so much kindness and help which you have already given us. We really appreciate it. Thank you for being here for us!
We would like to tell you much more about the situation in our country, but we would not be able to fit all the essential information even in one book, so this is the end of the article for now.
If you would like to donate and help Ukrainians visithttps://savelife.in.ua/en/donate/.
Sources: The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Office of the Attorney General, The State Emergency Service of Ukraine, The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, "Ohmatdyt" National Children's Specialized Hospital,Iryna Venediktova (the Prosecutor General of Ukraine), Pavlo Kyrylenko, Head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration, Head of the Presidential Administration Andriy Yermak, Evstratiy Zorya (Archbishop of Chernihiv),Suspilne, The Public Broadcasting Company of Ukraine (https://suspilne.media/221249-a-vpiznav-ih-za-odagom-istorii-ditej-aki-zaginuli-vid-pocatku-vijni/), Zaxid.net, an online publication of L'viv (https://zaxid.net/rosiyski_agresori_znishhili_pamyatku_natsionalnogo_znachennya_n1537800).
Medics are trying to save a wounded girl. She did not survive. Source: Evgeniy Maloletka.
First: Death of Perebyinis family and a church volunteer. Second: Alice and Mykyta hiding days before the tragedy. Sources: Lynsey Addario/The New York Times, Serhiy Perebyinis.
Wounded Vova. Source: Ohmatdyt.
The town of Bucha after the russian invasion. Source: Photojournalist Serhii Nuzhnenko/AP.
L'viv after rocket strikes. Source: The State EmergencyService of Ukraine.
Destroyed house and transportation in Mariupol. Source: Maximilian Clarke.
Boy walking in near destroyed school in Zhytomyr, children playing chess in Kyiv. Sources: Fadel Senna/AFP, Serhii Korovainy.
It was a school, Zhytomyr. Source: Chris McGrath.
Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Source: Evstratiy Zorya (Archbishop of Chernihiv).
Damaged Holocaust Memorial. Source: The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
Farewell in L'viv. Source: Bernat Armangue/AP.
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