'If they kill me here, so be it': Valentyna can't take it anymore as Russian bombardments hit her living environment for the second time in Chassiv Iar, near Bakhmout, eastern 'Ukraine.
"I was here, at home, and I was about to sleep, lying on my couch. And all of a sudden, the shelling started," the 82-year-old lady told AFP.
"So I couldn't get out. So I lay down and said to myself, whatever happens, if they kill me here, so be it. And that went on for at least three hours. Oh my God, I can't stand it," she continues in a small, tired voice.
The strikes hit his neighborhood on Friday evening, but did not directly hit his house.
A rocket partially destroyed a building, and a little further shells fell in his street.
Right next to his small brick house, a projectile landed at the foot of an armored personnel carrier, breaking a track wheel. An army 4X4 car which was to follow him ended up in the ditch. Only a few soldiers were injured.
Part of Valentyna's house had already been destroyed by a previous bombardment.
"It's cold inside. There is no more gas, no more electricity, no more water. There is nothing left", she lists.
Widowed for 20 years, she lives alone and has only one daughter who lives in eastern Russia.
"I have nowhere else to go. The last time I visited my daughter, it took me four days of travel", explains the old lady, before picking up branches from the street. broken trees to fuel his stove.
Chassiv Iar -- some 13,000 pre-war inhabitants -- has become the last western exit from the city of Bakhmout, defended for months by the Ukrainians and which Russian forces and the paramilitary group Wagner are trying to conquer.
Bakhmout, the current epicenter of the conflict, is now squeezed to the north, south and east. Wagner's boss, Yevgeny Prigojine, even claimed on Saturday that his men were near the center of the city.
With the progressive advance of the Russians around Bakhmout, Chassiv Iar is henceforth also threatened, to the east and to the north. Trenches have been dug in recent days for several kilometers in some places near the city. Excavators were still active on Saturday.
As in many localities close to the front line which are regularly bombed, almost all the inhabitants have left Chassiv Iar.
On Saturday, a civilian minibus evacuated to Dnipro (south) a girl and her mother, whose husband is also due to leave at the end of the month.
The man who accompanied them to the pick-up point saw the roof of a house next to his destroyed by a strike on Friday evening.
He moved to Chassiv Iar six months ago and ran a cafe in Bakhmout, where he went twice a week for the past few months but only to feed abandoned dogs.
He hasn't been there since the end of February, when the Ukrainians destroyed a bridge on the road between the two towns.
"I promised my wife I wouldn't go back," he says. He will also leave Chassiv Iar soon.
In and around the city, Ukrainian artillery fire resounds non-stop, like the powerful fire of an American M777 howitzer, positioned near the center.
"We have a lot of work, without breaks, at any time of the day. We work at night if we are called", explains "Siry", by his nom de guerre, the head of the room.
"Today we are mainly covering the area around Bakhmout," he said, adding that the target is "usually Russian infantry or armor."
Asked about the morale of his group, he replies that they are fighting "for victory. We need victory, not just peace".
"I always say that the Russians are crazy animals, that's all (...) We have to stop them", launches the gunner.
12/03/2023 19:08:23 - Tchassiv Iar (Ukraine) (AFP) - © 2023 AFP