Dangerous escape from the occupied territories


In Ukraine, many civilians are trying to leave the occupied territories. But fleeing involves great risks, even mortal danger. Apparently, there are days of waiting at Russian checkpoints.

Olena has it behind her, the escape. The 56-year-old fled to western Ukraine – from Enerhodar. There is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, and Russian units took the city in the first weeks of the war. Olena came out just a few days ago.

“We had to pass eleven or twelve checkpoints,” she says. “You check the documents, collect ID cards, take them somewhere.” That made her nervous, but she got the papers back. The luggage will also be checked. “And they looked for Ukrainian symbols in the cell phones. Our driver warned us not to speak Ukrainian and not to wear yellow and blue clothes so we wouldn’t annoy them. It’s best if we keep quiet and look down when answering questions.”

Olena describes that there are various fighters at checkpoints – from the Caucasus, from the breakaway republics, but also heavily armed Russian soldiers.

Days of waiting at the checkpoints

The civilians flee at random. It seems to be particularly difficult in the southeast of Ukraine at the moment. The mayor of one of the occupied cities in the region, Ivan Fyodorov, complains that people have to spend several days in the exit queue. At one of the most important checkpoints in the region – near the village of Vasylivka – there is hardly any progress:

“Currently, more than 5,000 people have gathered there, more than 1,200 cars. It is now happening that people have to sleep in the car on the side of the road for more than a week. And there is no end in sight. We are getting confirmation that five People died while waiting in line to exit Ukrainian-controlled territory .”

The figures cannot be independently verified. However, Olena confirms the agonizing wait in Vasylivka: “I’m not surprised when I notice that people are dying in the queues,” she says. “Because you often wait five days before you pass the checkpoint in Vasylivka. It’s almost unbearable. It’s hot, it’s 35 degrees outside.”

Government calls for people to flee

Wassylivka has apparently become a bottleneck. The civilians from all cities and settlements in the region have to pass this checkpoint. Olena says most are women with small children. Many did not have enough water or food with them.

Despite the risk of fleeing, the Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, Irina Vereshchuk, is calling for people to set off. “You have to get to safety as soon as possible,” she warned. “Because otherwise, the people will become living shields. Because our army will definitely liberate the territories.”

In the south, it affects the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions. A counter-offensive by the Ukrainian armed forces is expected there soon. But those who can also save themselves from the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk – fierce fighting will continue there.

Referenda feared

In addition, the Russian side is probably working on referendums. The territories could be annexed to Russia, according to separatists as early as September. Vereshchuk also sees a danger in this: “They are trying to hold their fake referendums quickly, which means they will put pressure on people and force them to take part.”

According to Wereshtschuk, almost three and a half million internally displaced persons are officially registered in the country. She calculates that half a million more people could flee the occupied territories.


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