Speaking in an interview with Voice of America (VOA), two female Ukrainian troops have provided first-hand accounts of fighting on the front lines and learning of Russian atrocities committed against civilians.
Daria Zubenko, a Chernihiv-born senior sergeant of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, took part in operations near Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and spoke of what she witnessed in heavily-hit areas such as Irpin.
“I was in Irpin, I was in the village of Moshchun, that is north from Kyiv, where the Russians were stopped” Zubenko said. “And then we had operations in Chernihiv Region, going into the villages that have just been left by Russians.
“I saw people coming out of their houses. When they saw Ukrainian troops and Ukrainian flags, they started crying and saying, ‘Thank you, boys and girls, finally you came.’
“Most of them asked ‘Please make sure that the Russians never come back.’”
“What those people have experienced is really horrible. We saw pictures of Bucha, Irpin and recently liberated cities like Izyum, Kupyansk, and all these mass graves, all this evidence of people being tortured, captured and killed.”
“In [a] small village of Yahidne near Chernihiv, people spent about a month locked in the basement. Russian troops didn’t let them go out — there were about 200 people there in one place, with small children. The youngest child was 3 months old.”
“The Russian were shooting civilian cars. We know people have been captured and held somewhere in the basement and tortured.”
“And there were some older people — none of them, unfortunately, could survive all of this. Some men were taken out of this basement and convoyed by Russians to the forest and shot. I saw women who just received the news about their husbands being killed — I felt ashamed that we’d just let this happen.”
“Russian [troops] don’t have any principles or any rules of war when dealing with civilians,” she added. “That’s why we hope to liberate our cities and towns as soon as possible.”
Yaryna Chornohuz, another female soldier, this time from the Reconnaissance Battalion of Ukraine Marine Corps, told VOA that she had spent most of the war in the thick of battle.
“I’m here right from the front line from Donetsk Region,” she said. “My battalion has been on the front lines during 13 months. We have seen plenty of towns, Donetsk Region, Mariupol, Bakhmut, Slovyansk, and the others.
“I saw with my own eyes how Russian tanks destroyed and ruined villages of Ukrainians. During the first month of [Russia’s] full-scale invasion, I had a quite hard experience to help not only wounded soldiers because I’m a combat medic, but also a civilian.
“I already told that story to the American news [outlets] about rescuing the boy age 10 from the basement and his mother with a 10-month [old] child in her hands. I just had this picture before my eyes when we took the boy in a blanket … to our military car and evacuated that village. Every day, it was bombed by cluster munitions by Russians.”
Chornohuz welcomed the military aid provided to Ukraine by other nations, saying: “What I can say now is that [the] HIMARS system, and the Howitzers that we got from the U.S. changed everything,” she said. “They [Russian troops] came with such big forces, with such long tank columns and we managed to stop them.”
The full VOA interview can be read here.
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