In Irbin, “It is impossible to forget and return to life before the war.”

In the northwestern outskirts of Kyiv, Erpin is trying to heal her wounds and revive her devastated streets after the departure of Russian troops at the end of March. Its residents continue to bury their dead daily after weeks of Russian bombing and occupation, which are synonymous with executions and rape. Testimonials – Recommendations.

Located about thirty kilometers northwest of Kyiv, Erpin will never forget the devastation caused by the Russian army that captured the city at the end of February, before evacuating it a month later, when Russia’s offensive on Ukraine was now focused on the eastern region. Ukraine.

A month of indiscriminate bombing and massacres turned into hell on earth. This small city, which before the war was a refuge for foreign tourists, is very popular with the people of Kyiv. The latter came to enjoy, for a weekend or more, the banks of its rivers and its greenery.

Residents are still in shock

And the inhabitants of Irbin, who survived this hellish month, are still suffering from the actions of “racist Russian and Chechen soldiers”, as Konstantin Godoskos, a Ukrainian of Kazakh descent, described it. A citizen cannot hold back his tears every time he remembers the violence and killing that took place since the first day of the arrival of the Russians in Irbin.

“I was woken up by a big explosion on the night of February 24th [le jour du début de l’invasion russe, NDLR]. I looked out the window, trying to understand what was going on, and there I saw hundreds or even thousands of paratroopers who had been shot down by Russian military planes at Hostomil Airport, located only a kilometer from Irpen. The sound of helicopters was terrifying and unbearable and my brain couldn’t believe what I was seeing in the sky.”

Konstantin Godoskos is one of the witnesses to the massacres perpetrated by Russian forces in Irbin. © Taher Hani, France 24

“Two days later, Russian soldiers came to my building and shot the guard for no reason, he says. The unfortunate man was not even armed. On several occasions, I saw Russian soldiers killing people who were walking in the street.”

Due to its proximity to Kyiv and the main road to the Ukrainian capital, Irbin is one of the first cities occupied by Russian soldiers. The Ukrainian forces prevented these from advancing on Kyiv, which they were repelled and forced to hold positions in Irbin for a month – which seemed endless to the city’s residents.

“I saw them rape women and girls”

Konstantin Godoskos has not only witnessed summary and arbitrary executions in the streets, but also claims to have witnessed “more terrible” scenes, in his words, such as the rape of women, which he will never forget.

“I saw them raping women and young girls. One of them was 15 years old, he said. They isolated her in the basement of the building. They weren’t Chechens or soldiers of another nationality, no, they were more than 20 Russian soldiers. The girl finally managed to escape because Her rapists, being very drunk, forgot to tie their ties.”

And to continue: “I saw horrific things around in Irben, I even buried 74 bodies during the occupation of the city by the Russian forces. I told them they were Christians like me and foreigners like me. I asked them to bury their dead in the cemetery according to our religious traditions, but they refused and ordered me to bury them in the gardens of the houses.”

“What did we do to Putin to kill ourselves like this?”

As of April 15, the bodies of more than 900 civilians have been discovered in the Ukrainian capital region after the withdrawal of Russian forces, including 150 in the city of Irbin alone, according to Kyiv regional police chief Andrey Nepetov. And that number is likely to rise because all the bodies have yet to be found, he said.

“The task of the police now is first to collect evidence, document crimes committed by Russian soldiers and bring them to international justice. Second, arrest the Ukrainians who helped them and all the thieves who looted empty houses.” Andrei Nepetov said.

Like Borodianka, a little north of kyiv, Irpin has become a ghost town. Most of the buildings and structures were destroyed, while the infrastructure collapsed. No water, no electricity, no shops. This critical situation prompted the vast majority of its residents to flee.

One of the many buildings destroyed by Russian bombing in the center of Irbin.
One of the many buildings destroyed by Russian bombing in the center of Irbin. © Taher Hani, France 24

Before the war, the city had a population of over 60,000. Today, there are only a few families left who were unable to escape because they were unable to find a safe place to take refuge.

Among them is the home of Alina Kochcock, who lives with her children in a small apartment on the third floor of a building whose roof has been destroyed. “I have nowhere to go. On March 20, I buried my husband who was shot dead by Chechen soldiers. Today, we are forced to stay in this building that could collapse at any moment.”

“My children support me and ask me to turn the page on the past and not look back, Alina Koçek continues with tears in her eyes. But how can we forget everything we have been through? My husband was killed, my apartment destroyed, we lost everything we had, we became beggars. No, we can’t We forget and go back to life as we knew it before the war.”

And to add: “What did we do to Putin that we would kill ourselves like this? We did not rob anyone and insult anyone, we lived in our country and we did not attack anyone, he attacked us and destroyed our lives.”

Many years to rebuild devastated cities

In Irvine, where buildings are sometimes lined up similar to those in the French suburbs, many people witnessed killings and massacres.

Apartment destroyed by a Russian RPG missile targeting a resident who was smoking a cigarette on the balcony.
Apartment destroyed by a Russian RPG missile targeting a resident who was smoking a cigarette on the balcony. © Taher Hani, France 24

“In mid-March, a woman called us to tell us her uncle had shown no sign of life for several days, says a policeman who was on patrol in a city neighbourhood.” We went to this person’s house, I found that a Russian missile hit his balcony, and this guy was targeted and lost his life while he was smoking a cigarette on his balcony.”

Other residents were targeted for no reason or “just by taking off their mobile phones”, explains his colleague, who said that “the Russians wanted to prevent anyone from documenting the heinous massacres they committed against this city and its residents.”

Russian forces targeted the Irbin police station and a security officer was killed.
Russian forces targeted the Irbin police station and a security officer was killed. © Taher Hani, France 24

It will take a long time for Erpin to come back to life. The main roads, buildings and bridges leading to the capital were destroyed. Even its cultural center, which is considered an architectural masterpiece built during the Soviet era, was not spared from the bombing and would have to be completely destroyed because its pillars were shaken by the intensity of artillery bombardment.

Irbin, Bucha, Borodinka, Hostomel and many other Ukrainian cities were destroyed within a month. It will take Ukraine several years and a lot of resources to rebuild it all.

An article adapted from the Arabic language, you can find the original version here.

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