It is understood that between 30,000 and 40,000 of Lysychansk’s prewar population of about 100,000 stayed, ensuring that Ukrainian forces sometimes shared apartment buildings and other structures with civilians, many of whom were hoping they would be defeated.
The Russians “bombed schools, technical schools, ‘Silpo’ stores and many more places,” said Mykhailo, a resident of an apartment complex in Lysychansk, who gave his name only to avoid retaliation. “Everywhere Ukrainian military settlements are bombed and everything is being destroyed.”
Russian officials claim not to attack civilian sites, but Ukrainian and international investigators say they have evidence to the contrary. And Ukrainian politicians and human rights defenders, as well as international scholars, have argued that Ukrainian soldiers have largely been forced to defend the territory under Russian onslaught.
“The complete absence of any location, equipment, or even a soldier near a school, hospital, kindergarten, church, or museum will not protect them from Russian attacks by air force, artillery, tanks, incendiary bullets or cassettes,” Roman Avramenko, director of the NGO TruthHounds, which investigates war crimes, wrote on Facebook. “The presence of civilians never stopped the Russians from attacking these subjects.”
Others point to the well-documented atrocities committed by the Russian military in urban areas.
“In hundreds of occupied cities, towns and villages, what we see in Bucha, Irpin, Gostomel is happening right now,” said Olha Reshetylova, of the Media Initiative for Human Rights, a Ukraine’s advocacy organization, referring to the Kyiv suburbs has become synonymous with barbarism. “So I don’t want the Ukrainian army to leave my city.”