Ukrainian cities see massive destruction
Parts of the country are unrecognizable as people flee and buildings crumble
In less than three weeks, Ukraine’s apartment buildings, once warm homes to families and pets, have become impossible to live in. Infrastructure that once served millions has become inoperable, unusable. City centers full of shoppers have been reduced to rubble. Hospitals meant to provide care and sanctuary have become scenes of destruction.
[Russia-Ukraine live updates: Kyiv under fire as Ukraine, Russia hold talks and humanitarian crisis grows]
Moscow’s shelling of civilians and apparent disregard for cease-fires and humanitarian corridors have sparked international outrage. On March 9, a maternity hospital in Mariupol — a city strategically important to Russia — was bombed. At least four people were killed, including a pregnant woman. Children and medical workers were among the more than a dozen injured.
The World Health Organization said it had verified 29 attacks on health-care facilities and workers, including the Mariupol attack.
A week later in the same city, a Russian airstrike hit a theater where many civilians had sought refuge, according to local authorities. It was unclear how many were killed.
Satellite imagery of the community center taken on Monday showed the word “children” written in large white letters on the ground outside the building.
As Russia continues to bombard the seaside metropolis, aid groups warn that many residents are without water, food or medicine.
Experts say that the casualties and immediate destruction of these attacks are just the beginning of the humanitarian toll.
“The brutality of war isn’t in the immediate moment of violence, however horrific it may be. It is in the reverberation of these violent moments through time,” said Mark Kersten, a researcher at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy in Toronto. “That suffering lasts much longer than the time it takes us to look at an image and turn away.”
Some of the buildings hit are in residential areas, where analysts have noted there are no military targets nearby. Strikes on houses or apartment buildings often render the structure unlivable, leaving many displaced.
[Russian attacks hit at least 9 Ukrainian medical facilities, visual evidence shows]
Once a building is struck, said Maria Avdeeva, research director of the European Expert Association, a nonprofit think tank, “people don’t have heat or power. It’s not possible for people to stay there.” In Kharkiv, where Avdeeva is based and has been documenting the destruction, temperatures remain below freezing most of the time, further increasing the danger for those without shelter.
A projectile struck this housing complex in southeastern Kyiv on Feb. 25 during the predawn hours.
One resident, Vladimir Skakun, 57, said he was resolved to fight and urged other Ukrainians to take up weapons. “We need to save Kyiv, the heart of Ukraine. Don’t hesitate,” he said, while standing in the ruins of what was once his home.
The moments after the suspected Russian strike were captured on a video posted to Telegram and verified by The Washington Post.
Bila Tserkva, Ukraine
On the morning of March 5 in the city of Bila Tserkva, 50 miles south of Kyiv, a blast hit a residential area: this cluster of low-level brick buildings built about 15 years ago.
Karina Maniukina, 16, was cooking in her home when the blast took place. Shards of glass cut her face. “I thought I was going to die,” she said.
In Kharkiv, on March 1, this apartment building was destroyed.
Avdeeva said it was built during the 1960s or 1970s, when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. The thin walls and older frame meant “the destruction was very massive,” she noted.
On March 2, a missile strike reduced this residential building in Borodyanka — 40 miles northwest of Kyiv — to debris. The Ukrainian State Emergency Service told CNN shortly after the attack that it was impossible to know how many people were trapped under the wreckage.
“People are killed in the damage. People are left homeless. People are killed in the rubble as the building collapses. But then there also is environmental damage,” said Bonnie Docherty, associate director of the armed conflict and civilian protection initiative at Harvard University’s International Human Rights Clinic. She noted that some buildings contain asbestos or other toxic materials that could be released in the destruction.
Shelling public spaces
Kharkiv has been crushed by the war. Half of its population has fled. Damage to administrative buildings and public squares targeted in Ukraine’s second-largest city has not been contained to those areas. Nearby homes have also been destroyed, Avdeeva said.
“The more damage I see — and I understand there will be more coming — I don’t understand how Kharkiv will be able to again become the city it used to be,” she added.
On March 1, Kharkiv’s central Freedom Square was struck, leaving the main administrative building and homes in the area destroyed.
“The explosion was so strong that all the buildings on the main square are now without windows,” Avdeeva said. She added that, in addition to the nearby shops and houses that were destroyed, a children’s community center was damaged in the blast.
In this video taken March 3, Kharkiv’s historic center was battered by blasts. Avdeeva said the once-bustling area of shops and office buildings also housed apartments.
Civilian infrastructure including power plants, radio towers and bridges has also been destroyed in the war. The impact of such attacks could have significant, long-lasting repercussions.
“If you attack a power station in Ukraine, and it goes without power, just as important of a question is will hospitals be able to power lifesaving machines that keep people alive,” Kersten said.
On March 5, after a heat and power plant was destroyed in the northeastern region of Sumy, the government said residents were left without heat and that half of the city of Okhtyrka was left without power. Nighttime temperatures in Sumy can drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit in March.
“The bombing of a power station might mean that schools and hospitals cannot run, and people won’t receive the care they need,” Kersten said.
A TV tower in Kyiv was also hit, killing five people, according to the Ukrainian government. The strike temporarily stalled broadcasting in the city.
While this strike had less of a widespread effect, other strikes across the country have resulted in the loss of communication capabilities, which could have deadly ramifications. In that situation, for example, Docherty said, people might not be able to call an ambulance. Without information and government alerts on their phones, people might not know when to take shelter.
Ukraine has also blown up some of its own infrastructure in an attempt to impede Russian troops. In Irpin, a Kyiv suburb besieged by Russian forces, Ukraine’s military destroyed a bridge, making it harder for Russia to encroach on the capital, but also making it more difficult for civilians to leave.
People fleeing the area were on foot, carefully crossing the wreckage of the bridge. Kersten said in this case, the destruction of civilian infrastructure could be seen as warranted. “The options here are not destroy the bridge and have tanks stream into the villages and towns. Or destroy the bridge and risk that some people might not be able to get across.”
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War in Ukraine: What you need to know
The latest: President Biden confirmed Monday that Russia has used hypersonic missiles, which travel faster than five times the speed of sound, in Ukraine. Frustrated with its lack of gains on the ground, the Kremlin could also seek to escalate the war by using biological and chemical weapons, Biden said.
The fight: Russia — which has launched more than 1,000 missiles so far — is increasingly relying on “dumb” bombs to wear cities and civilians down. Russia’s assault on Ukraine has been extensive with strikes and attacks across the entire country, and Russia has been accused of committing war crimes.
The weapons: Ukraine is making use weapons like Javelin antitank missiles and Switchblade “kamikaze” drones from the United States and other allies to combat the superior numbers and heavier weaponry of the Russian military.
Oil prices: Sanctions on Russia are helping gas prices hit new highs. Here’s why — and how long the surge could last.
In Russia: Putin has locked down the flow of information within Russia, where the war isn’t even being called a war. “Information warriors” from around the world are working to penetrate Putin’s propaganda wall.
How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can help support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.
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