Russian Soldiers Took Their City, Then Their Homes

Russian Troopers Took Their Metropolis, Then Their Houses

KYIV, Ukraine — For days, Roman Naumenko and his neighbors on the Pokrovsky condominium complicated exterior Kyiv had been watching from just a few brief miles away as Russian forces tried to take over a close-by airport.

“I noticed helicopters that had been firing, coming one after the opposite,” he mentioned. “It was an enormous shock. I couldn’t imagine it was actual.”

Residents would stand exterior their buildings filming the destruction with their cellphones.

Every day, Russian forces drew nearer and nearer to the condominium complicated. On March 3, one of many buildings was immediately hit by a missile. Greater than 150 households had been nonetheless within the 14-building residential complicated on the time, a constructing supervisor advised The New York Occasions.

After which, later that very same day, troops had been actually at Mr. Naumenko’s doorstep.

“We noticed the Russian infantry on the safety digicam of our constructing,” he mentioned. “From that second, the Russians stayed.”

They made round 200 residents keep too, holding a lot of them hostage within the basements of their very own buildings, forcing them handy over their telephones and taking on their residences. Others had been capable of keep away from detection however nonetheless had been basically prisoners in their very own properties as Russian forces moved into the buildings, which had housed 560 households, and took up sniping positions.

The Occasions interviewed seven residents of the Pokrovsky condominium complicated within the city of Hostomel, about 10 miles northwest of Kyiv. All skilled the assault and the captivity firsthand earlier than discovering methods to flee. Utilizing their accounts, together with footage from safety cameras and cellphones, The Occasions was capable of piece collectively what it seemed and felt like as Russian forces closed in.

“It was actually scary,” mentioned Lesya Borodyuk, a 49-year-old resident, tearing up at one level as she spoke. “I wrote to my daughter. I used to be saying goodbye to her. I advised her that most likely we might be bombed now.”

Outdoors within the car parking zone, safety cameras confirmed at the least a dozen Russian troops and infantry combating autos. Troopers shuttled heavy machine weapons and compelled a person inside a constructing at gunpoint.

Ksenia, who requested to be recognized solely by her first title, watched along with her husband and kids from their second-floor window as Russian forces arrived at their constructing.

“We didn’t know what might occur to us,” she mentioned. “It was only a whole state of concern.”

One group of troopers used rifles to smash open the entrance door of an condominium constructing. As soon as inside, they entered the elevator and destroyed its safety cameras. In some buildings, troopers went ground by ground tearing doorways off hinges and raiding residences, residents mentioned.

Inside just a few hours, in keeping with the seven residents The Occasions spoke to, Russian troopers had seized all the complicated and trapped near 200 civilians inside numerous buildings.

“Folks had been kicked out of the residences,” mentioned Elena Anishchenko, who was planning to have fun her 33th birthday with neighbors the day the troopers arrived. “They didn’t ask anybody something, they’d simply inform them to go to the basement.”

Most of the residents had their telephones and laptops confiscated or destroyed.

“They advised us — ‘Don’t be mad at us, but when we discover your telephone, you can be shot on the spot,’” Ms. Anishchenko mentioned.

Reduce off from the surface world, Ms. Anishchenko mentioned she couldn’t learn the information or converse to her household.

Some residents like Ksenia had been capable of stay of their properties — maybe as a result of she had an toddler.

Others went unnoticed. Mr. Naumenko and his spouse hid on the seventh ground of their constructing. He nonetheless had his telephone, which he would activate as soon as a day to textual content his household that he was nonetheless alive.

Buddies and kinfolk of these trapped in Pokrovsky had been in agony. In discussion groups and by way of textual content messages, they’d seen clips and display pictures of Russian troopers as they seized the complicated. Then the messages from their family members simply stopped.

Iryna Khomyakova, a resident’s daughter, noticed the closed-circuit tv footage of the troopers getting into the elevator. Frightened, she known as her mom, who mentioned that Russian troopers had simply entered the constructing and that she was pressured with others into the basement.

“My mother’s telephone died,” she mentioned on March 9, and he or she hadn’t heard from her in days.

Hanna Yaremchuk advised The Occasions by way of textual content message that she was out of contact along with her father for days, including that he was additionally being held in a basement. She puzzled: “Is he alive in any respect? !!! I have no idea!”

For these being detained, the power to maneuver round trusted the guards.

Ms. Borodyuk and others in her basement had been permitted to go to their residences to get meals and heat garments to assist stand up to the chilly of the brick basement. Neighbors had been permitted to cook dinner collectively and intermingle.

The Russians guarding Ms. Anishchenko’s basement had been extra strict. They allowed the residents solely brief, supervised visits to their residences to get meals and provides for everybody.

“Folks had been panicking,” Ms. Anishchenko mentioned, “Everybody was previous their breaking level.”

Finally, 100 or extra troopers had been patrolling exterior the buildings, and a few had been even residing within the residences.

On the seventh ground, Mr. Naumenko and his spouse continued to evade detection. Current shelling within the space had blown out their home windows and the temperature had dropped under freezing. With no electrical energy, they improvised methods to cook dinner, lighting oil in a saucer to heat up meals and utilizing a candle to warmth a can of water. With out warmth within the constructing, they slept absolutely dressed and sporting jackets.

Credit score…Roman Naumenko

In Ksenia’s condominium, every day concerned securing sufficient meals to feed her youngsters and surviving to the subsequent morning. Her new life was a far cry from what she envisioned.

“We had been ready for this condominium for 4 years,” Ksenia mentioned. “We invested within the renovation. However even this doesn’t matter now.”

Outdoors, the combating was relentless.

“We acquired used to the sounds of taking pictures and we realized to inform one from the opposite,” Mr. Naumenko mentioned. “Whether or not it was far or shut. Whether or not it was going into our constructing or above the constructing. We might hear that.”

Contained in the condominium complicated, the troopers had been telling their prisoners that Ukraine was about to be liberated, Ms. Anishchenko mentioned.

Ms. Borodyuk recalled a extra senior Russian officer making an attempt to consolation a woman within the basement the place they had been detained. “He mentioned: ‘My daughter is 8 years outdated too. I really like her very a lot. I miss her. Don’t be afraid, little woman, we are going to liberate you from Nazis.’”

Ms. Borodyuk mentioned a number of the youthful Russian troops didn’t even know why they had been in Ukraine. When captives requested one soldier why he was right here, he replied, weeping: “The place am I? What ought to I do?”

On March 9, Russia and Ukraine agreed to briefly set up a number of humanitarian corridors to permit civilians protected passage out of battle areas. However the Russian troopers at Pokrovsky failed to tell their prisoners.

Ms. Anishchenko heard by likelihood. Throughout a supervised meals go to to her condominium, she noticed a convoy shifting with white flags from the window and requested a Russian soldier what was occurring. He advised her there was a 72-hour no-strike hall in place. She and a few of her neighbors packed a bag and ran.

Credit score…The New York Occasions

On their method out, the scene was grim. “We noticed lifeless our bodies laying on the bottom,” she mentioned. “We noticed crashed and burned vehicles with our bodies inside.”

Mr. Naumenko turned his telephone on and noticed data in a WhatsApp group concerning the humanitarian hall evacuation. He and his spouse shortly gathered their issues.

Whereas leaving the complicated, a soldier warned them that he wouldn’t shoot him, however these patrolling elsewhere would possibly.

They fled anyway and escaped unhurt — together with all the opposite residents The Occasions spoke with. Naumenko is now in Kyiv, the place he plans to remain — and maybe combat.

“The issues I noticed in Hostomel had been a nightmare. I don’t need this to return right here,” he mentioned.

Movies edited by Dmitriy Khavin.

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