The City Hall of Izyum explained why it left the city a few days before the full occupation

Sofiia Telishevska, Oksana Rasulova

The mayor of Izyum together with his deputy for humanitarian affairі Volodymyr Matsokin left the city in March, and returned there a few days after his release.

In an interview with "Babel", Matsokin explained that he went because on March 10, the Regional Military Administration of the Kharkiv Region ordered local self-government bodies to evacuate.

"We left for Slovyansk, but for the next three days we came to Izyum every day with a humanitarian worker and organized the evacuation. The worst thing that happened was the aerial bombardment. The planes took off from Belgorod, and it took eight minutes to get to Izyum. Our night went like this: two planes dropped two bombs each, we had about a 40 minute break while they returned to the airfield, loaded up and flew back to us. They were not afraid, because our anti-aircraft defense was just being deployed. That was from March 5 to 13," the deputy explained.

According to him, on March 5, the Russians called the mayor and offered to meet, promised a good night, but the mayor did not meet with them.

"We tried three times to evacuate people through the "green corridors", which Iryna Vereshchuk agreed to. The first attempt was foiled by the Russians. During the second hour, only five buses came. They took people only from the southern bank. The bridges had already been destroyed. During the third evacuation, only 44 people were recruited from 60 buses. All this time there was no silence," Matsokin noted.

He says that there were people in the city who were lenient towards the Russians, but with the occupation their attitude changed.

"One boss said: "I donʼt care who will pay, I care about the salary." Now she is in the Czech Republic as a refugee," the deputy mayor gave an example.

According to him, the city was preparing for war, but did not believe in it.

"We prepared a list of bomb shelters, brought chairs and desks there, cleaned the ventilation at points. They systematically checked the electricity," explained Matsokin, but admitted that he was not ready to evacuate people.

"In March, I did not understand the word "evacuation" very well. Raisin was captured quickly, the railway was bombed, there was no communication. There was only one way — to Slovyansk. I did not understand that it was necessary to prepare people, to propose a specific time, to explain what things and documents to collect. It would be a lie to say that we knew this," summed up the deputy mayor for humanitarian issues.

  • At the beginning of September, the Ukrainian Armed Forces launched a counteroffensive in Kharkiv region. Ukrainian troops managed to liberate 421 settlements, including Izyum and Balaklia.