A brief reprieve came in the early afternoon, when the Ukrainians went on the offensive.
“We’re hitting them because they’ve run out of artillery shells,” Anatoli, a 19-year-old Ukrainian soldier, told BuzzFeed News. “We can say that Irpin is theirs. But we will cut them off now that the people are out.”
Kyiv has tried to agree with Moscow on safe evacuation routes out of cities encircled by Russian forces where shelling is heaviest. But the agreements largely haven’t stuck, and civilians have been deliberately targeted by the Russian military as they try to flee.
There has been no agreement between the warring sides for a safe corridor out of Irpin, which is in northern Ukraine near the capital of Kyiv.
Until Sunday, residents were able to leave the town by train. But then the Russians bombed the tracks, destroying the safest and easiest escape route. On Tuesday, the only way out was through the rubble of a bridge blown up by the Ukrainian army to stop Russian forces from advancing with tanks and armored vehicles into Kyiv just 15 miles to the east.
Ukrainian soldiers told BuzzFeed News that thousands of residents were being urged to leave immediately because Russian forces were not only pulverizing Irpin but were also moving in — stealing food, gas, and other supplies — and occupying whatever is left of it.
Anna, a woman in her 60s, told BuzzFeed News that if it weren’t for enemy soldiers breaking into her family’s home, “we wouldn’t have left.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin thought his military would roll through Ukraine in a matter of days and force Kyiv to surrender, but he underestimated Ukrainians’ fierce resistance and resilience. Now his so-called “special military operation” appears to have become one of terror that’s aimed at breaking Ukrainians’ will by laying siege to their cities and firing on them indiscriminately with rockets named after destructive weather events like tornado, hurricane, and hail.
But in the face of the worst fighting Europe has seen in decades, Ukrainians have been defiant.
Oleksandr Markushyn, Irpin’s mayor, said Russian forces had sent him a death threat and a demand to surrender the city to them Monday.
“I am surprised that these monsters still don’t understand that Irpin doesn’t surrender, Irpin is not for sale, Irpin is fighting!” he wrote on Telegram on Tuesday.