In One Image: The Moment the Fighting Got Too Close

In One Image: The Moment the Fighting Got Too Close

This little bus was filled with people from Vovchansk and the smaller villages around it, in the path of Russia’s surge into the Kharkiv region of Ukraine.

I met them at the interim point from where they were being taken to Kharkiv itself, the nearest big city.

Volunteers and rescue workers helped those who could not walk and handed out water and food. Cellphone service has been limited during the fighting, so a satellite internet connection was set up, which allowed the evacuees to tell their loved ones they were safe or let them try to check whether family members were still in danger.

Still, there was barely time to catch a breath.

In little more than a week since Russian forces again poured across the border, thousands of people have been rushed to Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, with a population now of 1.2 million. Those who fled the border areas described warfare that has erased whole streets.

Displacement is not a new experience in this region, and the evacuations may be far from over. Everybody on this bus had already confronted one Russian occupation: In the first months of the war, before Ukraine pushed them back, Russian troops had reached Kharkiv’s outer ring, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee.

They are already pounding the city again with missiles and powerful glide bombs. Though their new offensive has slowed in recent days, there are still fears that it could bring Kharkiv back within artillery range.

Written by Peter Robins.

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