A ghost city in Luhansk region. In Sievierodonetsk, the heating and electricity are partially absent, stores and pharmacies are closed, and the occupiers are constantly shelling the city — Babel reportage

Oleksandr Volkov
Yuliana Skibitska
A ghost city in Luhansk region. In Sievierodonetsk, the heating and electricity are partially absent, stores and pharmacies are closed, and the occupiers are constantly shelling the city — Babel reportage

Anastasia Volkova / «Бабель»

Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts are currently facing one of the most difficult situations in Ukraine due to the actions of the Russian occupiers. In Donetsk oblast, the Russians almost completely destroyed Volnovakha and Mariupol cities. In Luhansk oblast, the Rubizhne-Sievierodonetsk-Lysychansk agglomeration is under constant attack. Sievierodonetsk, which was not destroyed in the fighting in 2014, is shelled by the enemy every day. In part of the city, there is no heating and electricity because Russians are hitting infrastructure objects. Nevertheless, Sievierodonetsk continues to live and defend itself. At the request of "Babel", local journalist Oleksandr Volkov tells how the "ghost city" lives, as it is increasingly being called by local authorities and residents.

Sievierodonetsk received gifts "from Russia with love" on the second day of the war. Then the heat supplier "Sievierodonetskteplokomunenergo", which heated about 180 high-rise buildings in the new part of the city, was damaged. Since then, these areas of Sievierodonetsk began to turn into ruins.

Due to the wind rose in the courtyards of high-rise buildings there are always drafts, so in the apartments in the absence of heating, the temperature dropped quite quickly to 15 degrees. People were heated by electricity, and this only added to the problems due to system congestion. On March 5, the light also disappeared. The Russians destroyed to the foundation the substation that fed half of the city. The shelling also high damaged-voltage lines and lines inside the yards, which doesnʼt give any hope for energy recovery.

At the same time, mass shelling of the residential area began. Houses in the city center, schools, kindergartens and the only hospital in the city were the first to come under fire. At that point, the first residents began to descend to shelters — mostly to the basements of houses. At the same time, they began to use light masking and adapt to the curfew. Essentials and cigarettes began to disappear from store shelves. The latter are now almost non-existent in the city.

Anastasia Volkova / «Бабель»

Small "family" shops were the first to close, now there are no more than five in the city. They either lost suppliers or similarly got hit by the Russian occupier. At least two people died near such shops from debris injuries.

Large retail chains are no exception. On March 5, the Russians fired artillery at large supermarkets in the city. Miraculously, there were no casualties.

This and last week, Sievierodonetsk was under constant fire from the Russian Grads (multiple rocket launchers). Apartments and entire floors, schools and government offices are on fire. Most of them have people in the basements. New victims every day. Women, children, people with limited mobility and the elderly. Due to constant shelling, ritual services work irregularly. For the most part, locals cannot bury their loved ones properly. As of March 18, according to the Luhansk Military Administration, Russians had killed at least 63 residents of the region.

Many are trying to leave the dangerous city. "Migrants" can be divided into two categories: those who go to the center from the suburbs and those who go from Sievierodonetsk. In both cases, this is another quest. I personally took my parents from the high-rise to the center. At that time, we managed to find only 2 working phone numbers of those who help to move. They have been evacuating people from the sheltered areas since the morning and have been extremely busy. Everything is complicated by the almost complete lack of mobile communications in half of Sievierodonetsk. At the end, people cover 5-10 kilometers of the city on foot under fire and with things in backpacks and bags.

Anastasia Volkova / «Бабель»

Massive shelling has not subsided for more than a week. There is no light, heating or gas in the high-rise buildings of the new part of the city. Water in pipes freezes and water pipes in houses burst due to broken windows.

In the old part of the city, where the central heating is still working, radiators are cracking due to broken windows in empty apartments, and whole areas have to give up heat.

It is also difficult to cure a common cold — there is no pharmacy in the city. It is also difficult to find food for pets. In a recent address, the head of Luhansk Oblast Serhiy Haidai said the occupiers were trying to bring the situation in Sievierodonetsk to a humanitarian catastrophe.

Among those who remained, there are different moods, as in any society. And for the most part, people remain Humans. They help each other, do not panic and do not "lose face". For example, in the city you can see broken windows in clothing stores, lingerie, etc., and goods that no one touches from there.

According to the authorities, Ukrainian defenders stand firmly on the borders of Sievierodonetsk and hold the defense.

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