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The intense Russian attacks on Kherson that force its inhabitants to flee weeks after it was liberated by Ukraine

Nika Selivanova, 13, makes a heart sign to say goodbye to her friend Inna at the Kherson train station.

Minutes before they hugged and cried. They don’t know when they will see each other again.

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Nika’s family leaves Kherson not knowing where it will end. For now they are heading to the town of Khmelnytskyi for help.

The last few days have been too much for Elena, Nika’s mother.

“Before, the Russians would bomb seven to 10 times a day. Now 70 to 80, all day. It’s too scary. I love Ukraine and my city, but we have to goHelena says.

This family is among more than 400 residents fleeing Kherson after intensifying Russian bombardments in recent days.

Just a few weeks ago On November 11, Kherson was liberated by Ukraine.forcing the withdrawal of Russian troops after months of occupation.

On Christmas night, near the point where its inhabitants had waved Ukrainian flags and celebrated their liberation, a Russian attack left 11 dead and dozens injured.

The region of Kherson it is of vital importance to Russia and is often called the “gateway to Crimea”.

Analysts say that, after the Ukrainian advance that recaptured the capital of the region, Russia has been forced into a defensive position.

Kherson It is located on the western bank of the Dnieper, the river that now separates Russian-controlled areas in southern Ukraine and has become the de facto first line of fire in the south.

Many families left Kherson on their own in their cars.

Caught on the front line

Last Tuesday, the ward of a maternity hospital was bombed. No one was injured, but fear escalated among the population.

The Ukrainian government facilitated the evacuation of Elena and her family by train.

Hundreds leave on their own. A line of cars accumulates at the security control at the exit of Kherson, full of terrified civilians.

“We can’t take it anymore. The shelling is very intense. We stayed all this time, we thought it would happen and we would be lucky. An attack hit the house next door and my father’s home was also shelled,” says Iryna Antonenko, tearfully, to the BBC.

He plans to travel to Kryvyi Rih, a city in central Ukraine where his family is.

Among the dead in the Russian Christmas attack were a social worker, a butcher and a woman selling SIM cards. Ordinary people working or visiting the central market of the city.

Kherson was hit that day by mortar fire 41 timesaccording to the Ukrainian government.

Authorities urge Kherson residents to escape.  (Getty Images).

Authorities urge Kherson residents to escape. (Getty Images).

No clarity on progress

The Russians fired from the eastern bank of the Dnieper River, where they are concentrating after the withdrawal a few weeks ago.

Right now it is difficult to determine what they hope to achieve by bombing Kherson.

In addition to mortars, the Russians also use incendiary munitions to set targets in the city on fire.

It is also unclear whether the Ukrainian military intends to retake control of areas beyond the right bank of the river.

In the city there is hardly any rest from the constant sound of mortar fire.

Serhii Breshun, 56, died in his sleep. His house collapsed on him after being hit.

Serhii's passport was recovered from the ruins of his house.

Serhii’s passport was recovered from the ruins of his house.

The day after, the BBC met her mother Tamara, 82, who he was looking for his passport among the rubble. He needed the document to get the body out of the morgue.

“I must have sensed that something was going wrong that day. I spoke to him on the phone and urged him to leave the house. He didn’t want to and that was it. Our lives have been ruinedsays Tamara.

He wants to give his son a dignified send-off, even though he is dangerous. no part of Kherson You are safe.

Tamara, 82, is in charge of her son's burial.

Tamara, 82, is in charge of her son’s burial.

matter of luck

Survival, whether inside or outside the home, is a matter of luck.

Red Cross volunteer Viktoria Yaryshko, 39, was killed in an explosion near the organization’s base, a few meters from the security zone.

Her mother Liudmyla Berezhna shows Viktoria’s medal of honor.

“I’m happy because he helped so many people. He was very kind, but also it’s painful for me. I must recover and raise their two children. I tell them they should be proud of her mother because she is a hero,” she says.

Viktoria was a Red Cross volunteer and mother of two children.

Viktoria was a Red Cross volunteer and mother of two children.

Viktoria lived in the Red Cross underground shelter with her two children: Alyonushka, 17, and Sasha, 12.

They both continue to live here, feeling the shelter and protection of a group of volunteers who have become family.

“It’s hard when someone so close dies, but if we give up and stop, their death will have been in vain. We work to make sure people live. Everything else is secondary,” says Dmitro Rakitskyi, another volunteer friend of Viktoria’s.

It’s hard to work like this knowing that your own family is in danger every minute.

When more bombs sound minutes later, Dmitro tries to call his wife with visible tension on his face. He has two children.

“They don’t want to leave. They worry about me and I worry about them. That’s how we live,” he says.

Dmitro, a friend of Viktoria's, knows that he and his family are in danger by staying in Kherson.

Dmitro, a friend of Viktoria’s, knows that he and his family are in danger by staying in Kherson.

“What angers me the most is that Russian forces always attack civilian infrastructure: houses, apartment blocks, boiler rooms. It is impossible to understand the logic behind these attacks,” says Dmitro.

“We hardly ever have electricity or water. It comes on briefly sometimes and goes away again because of shelling. It’s very scary at night. We still have gas and we can heat ourselves,” says Larysa Revtova, another resident.

Tens of thousands of civilians continue to live in Khersonbut this week the regional administration has urged them at least twice to leave.

It is a city punished by indiscriminate and relentless attacks.

Additional reporting by Imogen Anderson, Mariana Matveichuk, Daria Sipigina, and Sanjay Ganguly.

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Source: Elcomercio

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