Report in Ukraine: the difficult return of the inhabitants to Irpin, a bruised city

Published on: 04/22/2022 – 10:49 While the war is raging elsewhere in Ukraine, Irpin and Boutcha, towns on the outskirts of kyiv which have lived through the hell of Russian occupation and intense fighting by the Ukrainians are finding relative peace. Some residents return there, if only to see the damage. Our correspondent, Gulliver Cragg, accompanied one of them. “Visually, it looks intact. Afterwards, we’ll see,” says Danylo Andreyko, back at Irpin. This French-trained baker planned to open a cafe-bakery in this suburban city of kyiv. “Sink, here the kneaders, tables … That’s what we planned to do. But we’ll do it a little later,” he continues, browsing the scene. He is relieved that the building is still standing. The neighboring houses are not. Danylo left on the fifth day of the Russian army’s offensive in Ukraine. His friend Yuri stayed on to fight. This Ukrainian soldier is a former paint dealer. He confides: “Where our positions were, there are no longer any houses. They have been 99% destroyed. Where the Russians were, this is not the case, because our artillery did not want to risk of injuring civilians. Near a church there were Russian vehicles, and we were sure that there were no civilians. But even there our artillery said no, we are not shooting at them. ‘church.’ This church is also the site of one of the mass graves discovered at Boutcha. The exhumed bodies have not yet all been identified. “I have no words”, loose Danylo. According to the soldiers, the Russian forces deliberately targeted the bridge used by the fleeing civilians. “Their artillery did not stop pounding this bridge”, hammers Yuri. “And they weren’t firing directly at the bridge, but in such a way that the shrapnel would hit the people under the bridge,” adds Sacha, another soldier. “It’s amazing!” exclaims Danylo. These soldiers think that the Russians wanted to discourage civilians from leaving in order to use them as human shields. The Ukrainian artillery nevertheless sometimes targeted residential areas, but taking care to refine its shots. Yuri says: “An entire column of Russian armored vehicles exploded here. Our artillery fired at them, and look: they aimed so well that most of the houses on this street are intact.” Most, but not all. The soldiers claim that here the Russians had entered the yard. Danylo, Yuri and Sacha were all civilians. They joined the army at the start of the invasion. “I’m proud for the courage my friend Yuri had. He stayed here to fight. But on the other hand I’m really… It’s not my home, but I guess for people who lived here, it’s crazy what … I’ve never seen that”, resumes Danylo. The reconstruction will take years. But before that, the whole area will have to be cleared.