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“We don’t sleep well”: Russians go on strike at 2, 4, and 6 a.m., the governor of Zaporozhye | Ukraine


Russian rockets arrive in Zaporozhye when “people’s dreams have come true,” says Alexander Starukh.

The governor of this south-eastern region v Ukraine as of 2020 Starukh, 49, answered the call from his bed at 5:08 a.m. on February 24, when one of the first missiles of the Russian invasion hit the local air defense system. Almost eight months later, he’s still taking calls at dawn.

Russians usually go on strike, he says, at 2, 4 and 6 in the morning.

The governor of the region and former historian Alexander Starukh at the Zaporizhia National University. Photo: Ed Rahm/The Guardian

The latest raid from the darkness came just hours earlier, when 10 S-300 cruise missiles and four Iranian Shahed-136 kamikaze drones fell on the outskirts of the regional capital of the same name at 5.30am on Saturday morning.

This time the missiles were aimed – albeit badly – ​​at two key electrical substations, while drones hit a seaport, destroying a civilian boat but little else.

At one accessible rocket blast site, there were burnt cars, broken windows and wounded children and elderly couples. But no one died. It was a good morning.

Lately, Zaporozhye residents are not so lucky.

Over the past two weeks, 70 civilians have been killed in nighttime terrorism unleashed by Vladimir Putin’s war.

Walking past a destroyed high-rise building in Asipenkavski Zhitlamasava in the northwest of the city, Bogdan Havelov, 23, with heavy bandages on his head, and his mother Olga, 46, can show the face and history of these numbers.

At 2.30am last Sunday, their world was shattered.

A rocket hit their building. The place of impact was visible from the missing vertical of the apartments in the center of the block.

Bogdan Havelov and his mother Olga near the destroyed high-rise building in Asipenkavsky Zhitlamasov
Bogdan Havelov and his mother Olga near their destroyed apartment building in Asipenkavsky Zhitlamasava. Photo: Ed Rahm/The Guardian

Olga’s husband, 56-year-old Sergey, was blown out of the window of their apartment on the seventh floor by the explosive wave of the explosion.

Bogdan and Olga, freed by their neighbors from the apartment, whose front door was warped by the heat, ran away from the block to where Sergei was lying at the bottom in a huge funnel.

They tried to pull him out, but instead saw his internal organs spill out into the mud. “He was still alive, he was still alive,” says Olga. Grief brought them into a state of almost trance.

It is clear that Bogdan is seeing pictures unfolding in his mind as his mother recounts the horrific events. The trees behind the apartments today have a peculiar foliage: torn blouses, trousers, skirts and T-shirts have been catapulted about 20 meters onto their branches from the washing queues on the balconies of the destroyed houses. A total of 15 people died as a result of this attack.

Zaporozhye Oblast and its capital are one of four oblasts, along with Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in the east and Kherson Oblast in the southwest, that Putin said were annexed to the Russian Federation on October 1.

Clothes flew onto a tree in an explosion that destroyed a residential building in Asipenkovsky Zhitlamasov
Clothes flew onto a tree from an explosion that destroyed a residential building in Asipenkavskiy Zhitlamasava. Photo: Ed Rahm/The Guardian

The truth is that the front line in Zaporozhye, about 18 miles east of the city center, has been almost completely frozen since early March, cutting the Ukrainian province in half.

This does not prevent the Russians from hitting the city with their cruise missiles, and when all of Ukraine has experienced an escalation of such attacks in the last week, Starukh keeps a graph on his phone that shows that the number of hits here has increased sharply. about three or four weeks ago. The interview with him is taken in the auditorium of the Zaporizhia National University, not in the council building, because almost all the windows there are broken. “It would be a little chilly,” he smiles.

A generous interpretation of the night strikes is that the Russians are trying to avoid civilian casualties. The reality on the ground, however, is that through incompetence, faulty equipment or maliciousness, they cause unimaginable suffering, citizens say.

A volunteer distributes food in Asipenkavskiy Zhitlamasava
A volunteer distributes food in Asipenkavskiy Zhitlamasava. Photo: Ed Rahm/The Guardian

On the streets of Zaporozhye, people recognize the name of Gen Sergey Suravikin, who was dubbed “General Armageddon” for his role in leveling the Syrian city of Aleppo. They worry about what Putin’s appointment last weekend could mean for them.

Starukh, however, refuses to distinguish Putin’s supreme military command. “They are all the same – the same Soviet general, and they use the same old books from the 1970s. They want to destroy Ukraine and Ukrainian infrastructure.”

The prospect of Putin seeking to level the city, as he did Mariupol 139 miles to the southeast, remains a concern of civilian and military authorities.

The site on Sobaronasti Avenue, where the building destroyed by shelling on October 6 stood.
The site on Sobaronasti Avenue, where the building destroyed by shelling on October 6 stood. Photo: Ed Rahm/The Guardian

Three rings of defense were placed around the city to ensure that the distance was too great for tank and artillery fire, but it could not rest.

“We are very worried about this. But we have experience. We have taken many refugees and officials from Mariupol and we always ask them how it happened, why it happened, what is their experience of the Russian raids, how Russia invaded Mariupol and how they shelled Mariupol. We learned from this experience.”

The Old Man’s frustration, along with the remaining lack of air defenses promised by NATO allies, is that not enough of the city’s residents have heeded his advice to evacuate. In Kiev, he has a wife and two children aged 20. But of the 700,000 pre-war population, about 500,000 remain.

Workers in the suburbs of Bombay repair power lines damaged by the attack
Workers in the suburbs of Bombay repair power lines damaged by the attack. Photo: Ed Rahm/The Guardian

“You know, 70% of Zaporizhzhya residents have never left the edge of the region,” he explains. “They are very afraid to meet new people, that they will not have money. You know, there’s an old woman I know whose village is constantly being shelled, and she sleeps in a shelter in the center of town at night, and then comes back in the day to dig and plant potatoes.’

It cannot be said that Zaporozhians enter the night only with foreboding. 32-year-old Tatsiana Drabotsia, who helps people in the “Polyanytsia” volunteer center patch up victims of explosions, heard all 10 explosions in the morning.

Often, she says, air raid sirens only go off after a missile hits. “I wake up from rocket fire, and then I take a pillow, warm clothes and go, for example, to the bathroom or to a place where there are no windows, because we don’t have time to go to the toilet anymore. a shelter, because it’s really dangerous to leave the house,” she says. “We don’t sleep well. Sometimes, for example, I can sleep, but my husband can’t, so in our family, you know, someone also needs to be on duty.”

However, there is a determination to stay, adds Drobotia.

Polyanytsia volunteer Roman Kasyan, 42, looks at the funnel left by a rocket that hit a car park and power lines in Bombay
Polyanytsia volunteer Roman Kasyan, 42, looks at the funnel left by a rocket that hit a parking lot and power lines in Bombay. Photo: Ed Rahm/The Guardian

Before entering politics, Starukh was a historian, gave lectures at the same university where he speaks today, an expert on the creation of the independent Ukrainian People’s Republic in 1917-1920, before the country joined the USSR.

He believes that Zaporozhye will have to wait until Ukrainian forces can retake Kherson, which is the gateway to both Crimea, which is controlled by Russia in the south, and Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. “We are solving the problem that our Ukrainian grandparents have not yet solved with Russian terrorists,” he says. “If we don’t solve this big issue with Russia, then our children will suffer.” He fears that there will be many more sleepless nights ahead.


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