Between terror and hope: the Ukrainian army advances in the east and the south | War in Ukraine

Between terror and hope: the Ukrainian army advances in the east and the south | War in Ukraine

It is from Mykolaiv in the south and Kharkiv in the east that two counter-offensives of the Ukrainian army are organized, which would have liberated 1000 square kilometers since September 1.

A crater in the middle of the street after a bombardment

It is almost surreal what happens on one of the large boulevards that cross the city of Mykolaiv. Cars move, but must slow down to get around a huge crater in the asphalt.

City workers shovel broken windows and debris that stretch over 300 meters into all directions. It was a Russian missile that landed here last night at 3 a.m., blowing out all the windows of buildings in the neighborhood.

Was the missile aimed at the hospital or the university center directly opposite? No one knows.

It's to terrorize us, says Anderi, head of the team clearing the intersection with brooms and cranes.

The Russians are attacking our schools, our clinics. People are terrified, it's unbearable.

This is the terror that residents of Mykolaiv have been enduring for months. The city nearly fell to the Russian army in the spring, and has since paid the price for its resistance with bombings and missile attacks.

“We don't know where to go, we're old. The president tells us to leave, that it is too dangerous, but to go where? »

— A pensioner

Two pensioners take turns to tell us about their macabre daily life, sitting on chairs in front of the Red Cross tent .

Residents of Mykolaiv suffer from water cuts.

Four NGOs are located in the city center of Mykolaiv to help a population that lacks everything.

Mykolaiv no longer has drinking water. Its residents have to pick it up every day with canisters at different service points.

We are old, we have to climb five flights of stairs with our cans, says one of the pensioners.

But for them, hunger and lack of water are not not the worst ordeal. These are the bombings. They can't take it anymore.

Ahead of us, dozens of residents line up for a free meal and rush to pick up their bags in case the sirens sound.

A few minutes later, four explosions are heard in the distance and send everyone to the shelters.

We follow them to the nearest basement. It's routine.

We don't know if it's the Ukrainian army firing at the Russians or the other way around, a man in his 60s told me. waits on the cellar stairs for the siren to stop.

But like many others here, he clings to the hope of the counter-offensive which is played out only a few tens of kilometers away, and everyone is talking about.

An elderly lady walks towards a shelter

Because Mykolaiv is the last rampart against the Russian occupation in the south of the country. The last town before the frontline where Ukrainian forces claim to have launched what is meant to be a major counter-attack to liberate the south of the country two weeks ago, starting with the city of Kherson.

< p class="e-p">Kherson was the first city and only regional capital to fall under Russian military control in March.

Journalists no longer have the right to approach the front. The military operation takes place in the greatest secrecy.

But according to President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian army has liberated for a few days the equivalent of 1000 square kilometers of area in the south, and especially in the northeast of the country.

“Today this movement has continued, there are new results. In total, more than a thousand square kilometers of our territory have been liberated.

—Volodymyr Zelensky, President of Ukraine

Which would mean that by the time all eyes were on Kherson, the Ukrainian army would have managed to break through the Russian front line and liberate several villages in the Kharkiv region. Things are as they should be, the Ukrainian flag is flying over liberated Ukrainian cities, President Zelensky wrote earlier this week, posting a photo of a kyiv soldier planting a blue flag and yellow in Balaklia, which has been under Russian control since the spring.

It is an important turnaround that is emerging in the conflict in Ukraine against Russia. President Volodymyr Zelensky claims that the Ukrainian army has recaptured no less than a thousand square kilometers of land since September 1. We find our special correspondent Tamara Alteresco in Odessa, Ukraine.

If so, this would be the biggest breakthrough in the past 5 months for the Ukrainian army and the one it needed after several months of being bogged down on the ground. battlefields.

We have to rely on the testimony of soldiers, those we meet in all the cities we have visited for ten days in the south to measure the morale of the troops.

We are advancing slowly, progress is slow, but we are advancing, says Youri, a soldier in the second line of defense in the battle for Kherson.

A Ukrainian soldier donating his blood

He takes advantage of a day off to donate blood in a clinic in Mykolaiv. The city has launched an appeal for donations to treat the wounded who arrive in large numbers every day in Mykolaiv or Odessa, 200 kilometers away.

I donate blood because it's a patriotic duty, says a young woman lying opposite. It is to contribute to the war effort. It is the equivalent of saving a father, a brother, a friend, an uncle, because here everyone knows a soldier or a recruit.

We went to one of the trauma centers in Odessa. The rooms are filled with Allied soldiers. Some have their heads bandaged, their arms in splints. In a room at the end of the corridor, a woman is at the bedside of her son, who has had his leg amputated. He is sleeping, she is reading a book. It's complete silence.

A wounded Ukrainian soldier

Outside, on a bench, a young man with a serious face smokes a cigarette while holding his girlfriend's hand. He tells us that his vehicle ran over a mine in a field. He was lucky, but his flying colleague died instantly. He was 22 years old.

Then there are those injuries that you can't see, but that hurt too. Youri tells us that he is recovering from a heart attack. He has been fighting since the end of February. He says he is well trained, but he is overtaken by the stress and violence of the fight.

It is at the military rehabilitation center, a few kilometers away, that they will go to recover their strengths. Journalists are barred, but there are dozens of soldiers hanging around the local cafes and all of them telling us the same thing. They are just waiting for one thing: to be discharged from the hospital to return to fight.

We are wounded, but not defeated, ever.< /p>

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