4.25pm: Bahmout on the front line, residents reluctant to leave
Four-year-old Tania trembles in her mother’s arms, her eyes wide open as the barrage of artillery fire echoes around the Ukrainian front-line town of Bakhmout to the east. Olena has been inventive in hiding the truth about what is happening from her curly-haired daughter, but her creativity is running out. “Sometimes I just turn the TV up louder (…). If I keep telling the kid it’s war, I’ll disturb his mind. But I think she understands,” she told AFP.
Olena’s family is one of the few who stayed with their children in Bakhmout, just six kilometers from the Russian positions. More than a third of the city, which had 73,000 inhabitants before the war, fled. On Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on everyone in the area to evacuate. Kyiv announced “a mandatory evacuation” and vowed to help those who left.
But most of those who refuse to leave Bakhmout make almost the same arguments: too poor, too ill, too old to start over in a new place. “My husband’s mother has been bedridden for five years and we can’t leave her alone,” says Olena.