Terrified in a cellar, she prays not to give birth

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Hiding from the street fights raging on the streets of Kiev, beset by invading Russian forces, Yulia Snitko spent the night hiding in the basement of her building, praying for the life of her unborn child.

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Eight months pregnant, with her belly clearly visible under her clothes, she fears that any new explosion or sound of gunfire will cause her to give birth prematurely, while fighting for control of a nearby military base is fought.

“I try to stay as calm as I can so as not to cause a premature birth,” the 32-year-old woman told AFP, who said she heard “huge explosions” for nearly an hour last night. .

“When I realized what was happening, I started shaking, I shivered for five minutes,” she says.

Around her, families pile up on bits of cardboard and camping mats transformed into makeshift beds.

On the streets of Kiev, under sunny skies, only a few civilians were visible, queuing for basic necessities. In three days, the Ukrainian capital of three million inhabitants was transformed into a war zone.

Tanks maneuvered through the streets to face a feared Russian assault, while the wreckage of a Ukrainian military truck lay in Victory Avenue, so named to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Nearby, soldiers cleared debris and instructed an elderly volunteer digging a trench.

Several soldiers explain that the Russian forces are only a few kilometers from the city, firing salvoes of rockets indiscriminately from their fearsome Grad systems.

The sound of explosions was audible in the distance, alternating with that of anti-bombing sirens, at the sound of which the civilians rushed towards the nearest shelter.

Local authorities blamed the night’s attacks on Russian “sabotage groups”, while regular forces fought in an attempt to break into the city.

Projectiles hit multiple locations throughout the capital.

One of these missiles hit a large apartment building near the center head-on, destroying several floors and filling the street with debris.

Irina Boutiak, a 38-year-old teacher, spent two days in the cellar of her apartment, taking refuge alongside around twenty other people.

Despite the sound of anti-bombing sirens, some tried to sleep on mattresses on the floor, while others sat and talked.

“We have train tickets for western Ukraine for tomorrow. I don’t think we’ll be able to take the train,” sighs Irina.

Buses are at a standstill in Kyiv and deep Soviet-era metro stations have been turned into air-raid shelters.

“We will stay here until we can reach the station,” she hopes, still struggling to understand how her city could have plunged into violence.

“We thought something like this could happen, but we hoped until the end that it wouldn’t,” she breathes. “We hoped that common sense and decency would prevail. Well, that was not the case”.

Anatoli Chaïdouk, almost seventy years old, has trouble containing his rage against the one he holds responsible for this horror: Russian President Vladimir Putin, “this Hitler who is trying to seize power”.

“We are not afraid! If you knew how many young people have already stood up and taken their machine guns!” he says. “I’m 68, but I could pick up any gun tomorrow and shoot.”


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