Elderly Ukrainians evacuating Vovchansk in Kharkiv after new Russian attack say this is ‘fiercest fighting’ they’ve seen in war | UK News

Russian forces launched a surprise attack early on Friday in an attempt to open a new front in the war.

Vovchansk – a town 5km from Ukraine’s border with Russia – was one of its targets.

The Russian forces reportedly advanced 1km before Ukrainian reinforcements held them off.

Sky’s Deborah Haynes was there.

Terror and grief were the overwhelming emotions of dozens of mainly elderly men and women who fled the Ukrainian border town of Vovchansk after the Russian attack.

Gathered at an evacuation point just outside the town, they said it had been the fiercest fighting they had ever experienced since the full-scale invasion began more than two years ago.

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‘Fierce battle’ after Russia launches attack in Kharkiv

Residents gathered at an evacuation point just outside the town

On Friday, Sky News followed a pair of volunteer rescuers, who drove a white van into the town to help residents evacuate.

Smoke hung over the road on the way – we were told all roads into Vovchansk were being targeted by Russian artillery, rockets and drones.

One of the attacks had ignited a fire in a forest that lined the road, sending clouds of smoke into the air.

Pic: Reuters
Firefighters work at a site of a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine May 10, 2024. REUTERS/Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy
Missiles struck Kharkiv before the Russian ground offensive began. Pic: Reuters

The streets of the part of the town we entered were almost completely empty.

We pulled into a residential area of bungalows.

A group of five elderly men and women were on a bench on the side of the road, seemingly happy to stay put.

The rescue team pulled up outside an address where they had been told four residents wanted to be evacuated.

They knocked on the door but no one replied.

Instead, a petite grey-haired woman who lives in the house next door pushed open her green gate and told the rescuers that her neighbours had already gone.

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Distraught, Valentina, 74, had no plans to leave but the rescuers managed to persuade her.

“Let’s go, don’t stay here, it is dangerous,” they said.

Suddenly there was a boom – it seemed to change her mind.

Gathering a few simple belongings, she was led out of her home and onto the minibus.

People fleeing the Ukrainian border town of Vovchansk after Russian forces attacked
People fleeing the Ukrainian border town of Vovchansk after Russian forces attacked

The mayor said some 500 people from the town have been evacuated since the attack began, but he said the town’s population was 3,000, with many more yet to leave.

Evacuation operations are expected to continue.


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