Ukraine has evacuated over 100 civilians over the past week from the Russian-held outskirts of embattled Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast, an official within the regional police told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) on Feb. 2.
Avdiivka, lying only kilometers away from Russian-occupied Donetsk, has suffered intensified Russian attacks since October 2023 as Moscow’s troops aim to encircle and capture the city. Russian onslaught left Avdiivka largely destroyed, with many of its residents evacuating to escape regular attacks.
In an unusual operation, civilians who remained in parts of Avdiivka already held by Russian forces walked to the Ukraine-controlled city center waving white rags, according to Pavlo Diachenko, an officer from the Donetsk Oblast Police’s communication department who took part in organizing the evacuation.
The operation, conducted by the Ukrainian police and military, was risky due to constant Russian shelling in the area, said Diachenko.
“The people were local, they knew where to go. Everything was more or less planned. We understand that it is impossible to provide 100% security. Moreover, in the conditions of such intense hostilities and fierce shelling by the Russian military. Fortunately, everything worked out, and people are now relatively safe.”
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Speaking with RFE/RL, he didn’t specify how the police communicated with residents in Russian-occupied parts of the city, saying that there was no direct connection with them as Russian soldiers took away their phones.
The rescued civilians said they had been badly treated by the Russian personnel, and the police are already investigating those cases, according to Diachenko.
“When the Russians entered their street, they simply pushed them (residents) into one basement, a small one. There were 13 people there, including an elderly woman, who needed special care,” the police officer added.
“And they (Russian soldiers) kept the people in the basement for quite a long time. They didn’t even let them go outside or to the toilet, that didn’t happen. And the people just sat there, not having a clue what was happening.”
As of Jan. 15, a bit over 1,100 civilians remained in Avdiivka, according to Vadim Filashkin, the regional governor. An estimated 31,000 people lived in the city before the outbreak of the full-scale invasion in 2022.
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