IRPIN, Ukraine – A Russian force advancing into Kyiv fired mortar shells on Sunday at a smashed bridge used by evacuees fleeing the fighting, sending panicked civilians running. a cloud of dust and left three members of a family dead on the sidewalk.
Hundreds of people have gathered around the damaged bridge over the Irpin River since Saturday. Ukrainian forces blew up the bridge earlier to slow the Russian advance. Only about a dozen Ukrainian soldiers were present in the area near the bridge on Sunday, not fighting but helping carry the luggage of civilians and children.
To cross about a hundred yards on the exposed road on the side of the bridge closer to Kyiv, those who had tried to flee to the capital formed small groups and fled together. Soldiers ran outside, picking up children or luggage, and running for cover behind a wall of trash cans.
The mortar rounds first fell about 100 yards from the bridge, then diverged in a series of thunderous explosions down a stretch of road where people were fleeing.
When the mortars approached the stream of people, people ran while dragging children, trying to find a safe location. But there’s nothing to hide behind. A shell hit the road, carrying a cloud of concrete dust and leaving a family – a mother, a father, a teenage son and a daughter about 8 years old – sprawled across their faces. soil.
Soldiers ran to help, but the woman and child were already dead. The father was still taking his pulse but was unconscious and severely injured.
Their luggage, a blue suitcase and several backpacks, were scattered, along with a green carrying case for a small barking dog.
Ukrainian forces were involved in clashes nearby, but not at the site where civilians were moving along the street. Mortar shells could be heard from a Ukrainian position about 200 yards away.
The shelling suggested either targeted evacuation routes from Irpin, which Ukrainian authorities have accused the Russian military of after an evacuation railway was attacked on Saturday, or disregarded the danger. civilian casualties.
Russian forces have for several days advanced through three small towns on Kyiv’s northwestern belt of Hostomel, Bucha and Irpin, and the fighting has driven evacuees from the area toward the capital.
Early Sunday morning, the city’s military commander, Oleksiy Kuleba, said in a televised statement that the routes out were so unsafe that they could be blocked. “Unfortunately, unless there is a ceasefire,” he said, people cannot get out.
But civilians still managed to escape, first to Kyiv and then perhaps west to somewhere safer.
Soldiers at the site also assisted an injured member of the Territorial Defense Force, which coordinates armed volunteers in the defense of the city. He was shot in the arm.