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At least 200 feared dead in apartments hit by Russian airstrikes


Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN chief for political and peace-building affairs, told the council that explosive weapons had caused death and destruction in many populated areas, wrecking infrastructure that included residential buildings, hospitals, schools, water stations and electricity systems.

Tanya Hachnikova and Oksana Dikan wait while their husbands attempt to find a way into the basement of a destroyed building in Borodyanka, where Tanya’s parents in law died, along with more than 20 others.

Tanya Hachnikova and Oksana Dikan wait while their husbands attempt to find a way into the basement of a destroyed building in Borodyanka, where Tanya’s parents in law died, along with more than 20 others.Credit:Ivor Prickett/The New York Times

The UN received credible allegations that Russia had used cluster munitions — banned weapons that spew small explosive mines across a wide space — in populated areas at least 24 times, DiCarlo said. She added that there were accusations that Ukrainian forces had also used cluster munitions.

“Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes,” DiCarlo told the council.

Borodyanka used to have about 13,000 residents, and the town — a simple, modest place, as one resident described it — was built along a highway crossroads. That convergence was a selling point for people who worked in Kyiv, just a short drive away to the southeast, and for Russian troops as well as their convoys that began piling into the country’s north to try to seal off the capital in the last days of February.

Residents said that the Russian forces began filing through the town around Feb. 27, and that volunteers with the Ukrainian territorial defense forces then attacked one of the convoys. After that, Russian soldiers started shooting at cars and buildings as they drove through town, said Valerii Vishnyak, a resident. “It was just lawlessness,” he said.

People crowd around a  truck distributing aid in Borodyanka, Ukraine, on Tuesday.

People crowd around a truck distributing aid in Borodyanka, Ukraine, on Tuesday.Credit:Ivor Prickett/The New York Times

Then, late on March 1, Russian jets came screaming overhead. “We were sitting in the cellar,” said Tamara Vishnyak, Vishnyak’s mother. “The plane flew very low. I counted three seconds and the bomb fell.” The bomb crashed through the building across the street.

Ziuzko, 43, said that the only reason he and his family escaped the airstrikes was because they had fled their nearby building when the fighting set it on fire.

He said he did not know where his mother, Svetlana Ziuzko, 66, had been at the time the bombs hit, whether in her apartment or in the bomb shelter. His voice catching, he said he could not remember what day it was the last time he saw her.

“The back of the building is gone; just the balcony is there,” he said, pointing to the sixth-floor balcony hanging above a vacuum.

Behind the building, two women stood watch while their husbands climbed down into the basement next to the destroyed section. Tanya Hachnikova, 36, said her husband was trying to find his parents, who lived in the apartment building. The second woman, Oksana Dikan, 43, was looking for a colleague who lived there and was also missing.

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They said they thought up to 20 people had been living in the building when it was hit, but the two men climbed back out saying they could not get through to the basement that lay under the rubble. “We need help, and we need equipment,” Dikan said later by telephone.

Many people fled the town to escape the fighting that raged there for days, until a sustained Ukrainian counterattack led Russian troops to pull out last week. Yerko said that digging for bodies would have to wait. The first task, he said, was to reconnect the electricity and remove unexploded ordinance and then clear the rubble.

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Yaroslav, an information technology specialist who asked that only his first name be published to avoid being identified, was climbing onto a bench to look into a gutted apartment he said belonged to his parents. They had left, with just their documents and their cat, the day before the bomb fell on the building, he said. Almost certainly there were people still living in their apartments and hiding in the shelter when the airstrike hit, he said.

Asked if the Ukrainian military had been using the building, he said no. “What army? My parents were living there.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.



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