“Everyone is suffering. We are trying to survive,” says Nina, 64, a retiree pushing her bicycle. “There’s no (running) water, no gas, no electricity. We’ve been living under bombs for three months, it’s the Stone Age,” she said.
A mobile truck offers Polish goods and food, bread, sausages, camping gas refills. Residents gather around the vehicle as the prolonged rumble of Grad rockets is heard.
“It’s expensive, of course,” says Nina.
This small town in Donbass, eastern Ukraine, looks like a village with its one-story houses planted along dusty roads. Last large town before the front, it has become the new border between Russia and Ukraine.
All day, Ukrainian military vehicles, including American Humvees and latest-generation American and Soviet-style howitzers, pass back and forth. Also tanks, aid trucks and ambulances.
Ukrainian troops, having left ravaged and now Russian-occupied Severodonetsk, are now fighting at Lysytchansk, on the opposite bank of the Donets River.
In Seversk, the inhabitants still there, including many retirees, have the impression of being abandoned by kyiv.
“The city is absolutely dead and we would like to live a little longer,” complains Marina, 63, a retired worker. “They are just killing us, it’s dangerous everywhere”, and “nobody needs us, there is no help from the government, Ukraine has forgotten us”.
“We don’t live, we survive,” laments another woman, 60, Polina, dressed in a flashy purple tracksuit.
– “Batteries in high demand” –
“It marches all day”, notes a policeman near a checkpoint, who observes “movement today” after the passage of three vehicles mainly evacuating elderly people, women and children.
Dirty smoke rises after the firing of a Ukrainian missile.
Humanitarian aid is also being sent. At the town hall of Seversk, three Red Cross trucks arrive and unload boxes of food, with oil, tea, flour and hygiene products, AFP journalists noted.
A municipal official, Svetlana Severin, is demanding more candles, matches and flashlights from the Red Cross. “Batteries are in high demand,” she says.
The aid boxes are stored and the distribution organized on a rotational basis on certain days of each month, to avoid crowds, according to Ms. Severin.
Near the mobile truck, an old lady is however indignant at not having access to help. She asks for medicine for her heart.
“People need candles, they spend the night in their cellars,” describes social worker Svetlana Meloshchenko, who makes the rounds with water delivered in milk cans and finishes distributing candles, cookies and liquid soap.
“There are a lot of small children, elderly or disabled people”, she says, and also “a lot of diabetics”: “Medicines are provided at the hospital but that is not enough”.
Nearby, in a disused petrol station, Ukrainian soldiers are taking a break. They chew bread and sausages, submachine guns at their feet. They say coming and going from the front, without giving details.
“Our cause is just,” insists a young soldier. A bearded elder adds with a smile: “We don’t watch the news. When the news is really good, we will definitely hear about it”.