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Russia Ukraine conflict

Ukrainian student ‘still in shock,’ struggling with atrocities of Russian invasion

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Life has not been the same for many living in Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on February 24.

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Tatiana Musiy, 33, told Al Arabiya English about her ordeal during this time.

The Ukrainian national and 3D modeling student decided to stay in Kyiv, despite living under the constant threat of danger.

“When we [Tatiana and her boyfriend] woke up on February 24 to the sound of explosions, we first started to panic and think about what to do, but [then] decided to stay because it is our home,” she said, adding that she felt the strong urge to stay and protect her hometown.

“A few months before the war, there was a feeling that something bad was going to happen. We expected Russia to attack, but we did not think they would attack from Belarus, that the south would be occupied.”

She said that her relatives and most of her friends left for western Ukraine or abroad.

“Lots of them haven’t returned yet because the threat of missile strikes, unfortunately, has not gone away.”

“After the Russian troops left the outskirts of Kyiv and we learned what atrocities the occupiers did in Bucha and Irpin, it was a shock. No one expected [Russia to commit] such atrocities… Hundreds of murdered and tortured civilians, and it was [happening in] places where my friends live,” she told Al Arabiya English.

Over 300 bodies were found in Bucha, a Kyiv suburb, some with their hands tied and shot at the back of the head. Photos and videos emerged shortly after the massacre in April that sparked global outrage and international condemnation.

The month-long Battle of Irpin, which took place between February and March this year, witnessed some of the heaviest devastations at the hands of Russian troops. Key railroad tracks were blown up, hampering evacuation efforts and forcing Ukrainian soldiers to evacuate people via buses. Although Ukraine fought off Russian troops and won Irpin back, around 269 dead bodies were found in mid-April.

A view of at least three rows of new graves for people killed during Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at a cemetery in Irpin, Kyiv region, Ukraine April 18, 2022. (Reuters)
A view of at least three rows of new graves for people killed during Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at a cemetery in Irpin, Kyiv region, Ukraine April 18, 2022. (Reuters)

The International Criminal Court has since launched war crime investigations into Russia’s conduct in Ukraine, sending the “largest-ever” team of investigators in history, it said in May.

After Russian troops left the capital in April, it was very quiet in Kyiv for a while, Tatiana said, but added that Russia suddenly launched missiles on the city last week.

“We know that it [Russian strikes] will continue.”

The Ukraine war is now well into its fourth month in what Russia has referred to as a “special military operation” that has killed thousands and displaced millions of Ukrainians.

Some 12 million Ukrainians have fled their homes since Russia’s invasion, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

As of June 21, the UN recorded more than three million “cross-border movements” back into Ukraine, but highlighted that this number does not refer to individual refugees.

Ukraine’s border force recently said around 30,000 people were crossing back into the country per day.

The capital city’s population is back to around two-thirds of its pre-war level, Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko said in May, according to an AFP report. However, this number is expected to vary now.

“Now shops and cafes have started to open again in Kyiv, many people have returned home, so sometimes, when you walk down the streets, for a second it seems that everything is as before. But the missiles are still flying, the alarms are on all the time.”

“The inner feeling of danger did not go away,” the 33-year-old said. “The most difficult thing is now in the occupied territories in the south and east of Ukraine… communication is cut off, propaganda is carried out, people are [being] killed, grain is stolen, ports are blocked, territories are shelled.”

Tatiana told Al Arabiya English that a lot has changed since Russia invaded her country.

Ukrainian student Tatiana Musiy, 33, and her dogs during Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Supplied)
Ukrainian student Tatiana Musiy, 33, and her dogs during Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Supplied)

“Life was different. There were a lot of plans and desires, planned trips, studies, and work. Now the feeling that you need to live, rejoice in what you have, and notice the good around, because any second you can die from enemy missile [strikes],” she said.

“Now we try to continue living our lives, work, see friends, but of course, plans change all the time. Everyone is waiting for what will happen next. It’s scary that they [Russia] can use nuclear weapons, that something bad can happen to our loved ones.”

Due to living under the constant threat of shelling, Tatiana said that she tries to constantly check up on her relatives and friends.

“We don’t know how long the war will last. Unfortunately, the country has been suffering for more than 100 days. We hope for the help of other countries, for weapons, for missile defense.”

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly appealed to other countries for more weaponry to help repel Russia’s offensive in the country. In a move that has intensified tensions between the West and Russian President Vladimir Putin, NATO last week agreed to increase its troops and beef up its European defenses with extra forces, more weapons, enhanced air power, and new equipment, marking the biggest upgrade of its military presence in Europe since the end of the Cold War.

Fighting continues to intensify in the country’s southeast after Russia captured the twin towns of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk and continues to engage in heavy fighting to capture Ukraine’s Donetsk region, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

“It is hard for me to imagine whether we will ever feel peace with such a neighbor like Russia, even when the war is over.

“It hurts a lot that they are committing a real genocide in my country, destroying homes, whole cities, killing people. And I really don’t understand why they are doing this.”

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