In the flashed Bakhmut of Ukraine, residents are used to death

In the flashed Bakhmut of Ukraine, residents are used to death


Elderly people quietly pedal under fire, and children ride scooters on sidewalks vibrating from artillery fire.

Bakhmut, a ghost town in eastern Ukraine torn apart by four months of brutal fighting with invading Russian forces, has seen so much destruction that the few remaining residents have grown accustomed to death.

As Russian troops, backed by paramilitaries from the shadowy Wagner Group, exchange fire with Ukrainian forces on a daily basis, locals say they have learned to live under constant fire.

Sergiy, a 56-year-old resident, says he doesn’t even look up when Russian missiles whistle overhead.

“It just happened like that. We got used to it one day,” he told AFP, dressed in a tracksuit and slippers.

“Every boom scared us at first, but we got used to it,” he said, without giving his last name.

On the wet sidewalk near his house, between the green and yellow autumn leaves, the blood of one of Sergiy’s neighbors was still visible.

He was one of seven people killed in a bomb attack on Monday.

Once a quiet town of about 70,000 people, Bakhmut is now a shadow of its former self, with no electricity, water or telephone connection.

Survivors, dressed in their winter clothes day and night, gather to cut wood for fuel and cook meals over the fires outside their dwellings.

– ‘I can’t stay anymore’ –

According to local officials, several thousand people remain on the Ukrainian-controlled side of Bakhmut. It is unclear how many remained in the occupied part of the city.

When a mortar shell hit a residential building on Monday, Sergiy ran to take shelter under a porch.

But another local was not spared.

“We came out and saw this man lying here, with his chest open and his head off,” Sergiy said coldly. “We can’t even know who it was, he was there like a piece of meat.”

Zoya Timoshenka, a 73-year-old pensioner, lives on the first floor of the bombed-out building.

“Be careful, there’s a lot of glass here,” she told AFP journalists as she led them to the remains of her apartment.

Freezing winds and autumnal drizzles blew through a gaping hole in the wall where the window once stood between embroidered curtains.

After Monday’s attack, Tymoshenka finally decided to leave.

Her daughter-in-law Natalya Timoshenka said both would evacuate to the city of Dnipro, some 250 kilometers to the west.

“I can’t stay with what happened yesterday with this man who was killed downstairs,” said the 48-year-old.

Her retired mother-in-law had packed her entire life into three grocery bags.

“If we stay here, we don’t have 36,000 options: either we’ll be buried under the rubble, or we’ll lose an arm or a leg, or we’ll die,” said the elder Tymoshenka before boarding a yellow evacuation bus.

More to explorer