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Putin’s spies dish out poisoned sweets to kids in apocalyptic Ukraine town where locals live in sewage-stenched shelters

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UNSUSPECTING children have been dished poisoned sweets in an apocalyptic Ukraine town “infested with Russian agents”.

Just 15 kilometres from the frontlines, sewage-stenched Liman is a stark example of how the whole of Ukraine might have looked if the Russians advanced and took over.

Fedir, 14, plays the accordion outside his home in Liman, Ukraine

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Fedir, 14, plays the accordion outside his home in Liman, UkraineCredit: Getty
A local woman points to her apartment destroyed by a Russian missile strike

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A local woman points to her apartment destroyed by a Russian missile strikeCredit: Getty
Locals walk through the rubble of a damaged street in Liman

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Locals walk through the rubble of a damaged street in LimanCredit: Getty

The infrastructure of the town, located in the Donetsk region, was destroyed after a four-month-long Russian occupation in 2022.

Most houses were left without basic utilities, and their bullet-riddled walls were covered in graffiti spelling out words like “Russia”, “USSR”, and “Russian World”.

Liman was liberated in October 2022 – and has been regularly targeted by Vladimir Putin’s army ever since.

People today live there in basements to protect themselves from Russian rockets, shells, and drones and cook their food outside on makeshift stoves.

Beside every building are tonnes of firewood stacked in piles.

Before the Russian occupation, Liman was home to more than 20,000 people; now only a few thousand are trying to survive.

During our visit, while we were giving out food, a girl aged seven approached us, smiling and offering sweets – a heartwarming gesture.

“But don’t you eat it,” said a volunteer who was with us.

“The town is infested with Russian agents. There were cases when children were bringing sweets to the checkpoints and random soldiers in the street.

“The candies were poisoned. The children are not aware of what they are doing. You should not take anything from people; you can’t trust even a little girl.”

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The girl had appeared out of nowhere. She was not attended by anyone, and she did not blend into the general atmosphere of depression, destruction, and apocalypse.

We also met with a family of three, who were living in a basement the size of closet.

Galina Viktorovna, 62, her daughter Irina, 30, and her granddaughter Evelina, 10, were living in a three-square-metre room.

The distinctive smell of sewage and mould was almost unbearable.

Galina said: “Yes, it smells terrible, but it’s warmer than in an apartment here, and we are safe from the rockets.”

That is not exactly true. Russians know that people live in basements and aim specifically there.

Russians had already hit the basement of the building next door, allegedly with an air bomb, judging by the crate.

But people in desperate situations need to believe and hold on to something.

Galina continued: “We have nowhere to go. We didn’t have any problems until Russia caused them.”

People like this family rely mostly on humanitarian help.

We came to the town with the team of humanitarian volunteers.

While distributing humanitarian aid in Liman, we met Artyom.

Artyom, 52, still had his fancy coat, but his eyes were watery, and his face was beginning to swell – a sign of alcohol abuse.

Artyom’s wife left for Germany with their children at the beginning of the full-scale invasion. They do not talk anymore.

She has a different name and a different family. She traded her given name from Tanya to Tina and has a good life, we were told.

Her husband, who is still married by Ukrainian law, is totally crushed.

He said: “I used to have a small business. I owned a few buses. When the Russians came, they took them away.

“My wife, whom I loved dearly, found a man in Germany just a couple of months after arriving. She told me that she doesn’t want to have anything to do with me because ‘I am poor now’.

“What should I do? There is no work here. I can’t start the business; I have lost everything. My wife and my life.”

In October 2022, when the city was liberated, Ukrainian police were tasked with searching for the bodies of civilians amid the destruction.

Mark Tkachenko, communications inspector for the Kramatorsk district police of the Donetsk region, said at the time that the town was a “humanitarian crisis”.

He told AP: “Some people died in their houses, some people died in the streets, and the bodies are now being sent to experts for examination.

“For now we are looking for grave sites, and there are probably mass graves.”

The forests surrounding Liman were also decimated by fighting and the roads lined with dozens of burned-out vehicles.

Russian troops threatened to recapture the town mid-last year; today, they continue to target its shattered community.

People are desperately trying to stay alive while under the fire of Russian artillery, rockets and drones.

People in Liman live in basements to protect themselves from Russian rockets, shells, and drones

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People in Liman live in basements to protect themselves from Russian rockets, shells, and dronesCredit: Sergey Panashchuk/SAVE UA MEDIA
A couple packs bread they received during distribution of aid in Liman in October 2022

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A couple packs bread they received during distribution of aid in Liman in October 2022Credit: Getty
Ukrainian military men train with hand grenades in Liman in April last year

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Ukrainian military men train with hand grenades in Liman in April last yearCredit: Getty
A woman rides a bicycle through Liman the same month the town is liberated

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A woman rides a bicycle through Liman the same month the town is liberatedCredit: Getty
Servicemen of the Carpathian Sich Battalion are seen on a tank on a frontline, near the town of Liman, in December 2022

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Servicemen of the Carpathian Sich Battalion are seen on a tank on a frontline, near the town of Liman, in December 2022Credit: Reuters
Ukrainian tank-men prepare for combat as the war between Russia and Ukraine continued in the direction of Liman

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Ukrainian tank-men prepare for combat as the war between Russia and Ukraine continued in the direction of LimanCredit: Getty
Destruction in Bakhmut in May 2022, as Russian forces closed in after taking Liman to the north

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Destruction in Bakhmut in May 2022, as Russian forces closed in after taking Liman to the northCredit: Jack Hill/The Times, The Sunday Times.

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