GENEVA (Reuters) – Some 10,000 Ukrainian civilians, many elderly and with disabilities, are clinging on to existence in horrific circumstances in and around the besieged city of Bakhmut, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.
Russian forces have been trying for months to capture the city in Europe’s bloodiest infantry battle since World War Two.
Several thousand are estimated to remain in the city itself, said the ICRC’s Umar Khan, who has been providing them with aid in recent days.
“For the civilians that are stuck there, they are living in very dire conditions, spending almost the entire days in intense shelling in the [underground] shelters,” he told a Geneva press briefing by video link from Dnipro in Ukraine.
“All you see is people pushed to the very limits of their existence and survival and resilience.”
Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 in what it calls a “special military operation”, saying Kyiv’s ties to the West were a security threat. Since then, tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers on both sides have been killed.
Khan said he had been shocked by the scale of destruction he had witnessed.
“Houses are crushed by military firepower, roofs are ripped off, apartment buildings are littered with holes … the constant threat of exploding shells, bombs – and some people still living in the shelters, trying to survive these intense hostilities.”