ESTEVAN - The Mercury reached out to Estevan residents of Ukrainian descent Thursday night to talk about what they are hearing from home.
Estevan resident Hanna Frolova, originally from Sumy in northeastern Ukraine, said Thursday night that while it all started only on Thursday, there were tanks in her hometown.
“They were shooting at Ukrainian flag and then put their own. We have friends and relatives all over Ukraine, but I don’t know much. In my hometown, they destroyed a military base, some people died. My mom and father didn’t leave, there is nowhere to run,” Frolova said.
She added that the Belorussian “betrayal” – decisions to let Russian troops in so they could be closer to the Ukrainian border and fire missiles – is what failed Ukrainians.
“My auntie lives in Kharkiv. It was under a serious bombardment. So far everyone is alive,” Frolova said Thursday night. “Another auntie is in Kyiv, but Kyiv is big and she didn’t hear shooting in the beginning. My brother’s wife lives in Kyiv with her son. She phoned yesterday and said that there is shootings. She got in her vehicle to leave to western Ukraine, but came back at night because there were shootings there as well.”
Frolova added that it’s not true that Russians (or Russian-speaking Ukrainians) are being discriminated against – a rationale that Russian President Vladimir Putin uses to explain and justify their actions in the eye of Russian citizens.
“We speak Russian and there have never been any problems. Mom’s sister lived all her life in Donetsk (along with Luhansk the two breakaway regions recently recognized by Putin) and had no problems. Putin is sick,” Frolova said. “We are afraid for civilians, that they don’t touch them, don’t cut water and gas. A lot of people are older or have kids. Where are they going to run?”
She also heard that many Russian citizens hit the streets of their cities on Thursday opposing the war. Many were arrested by the police.
“It means a lot for Ukraine. Russians don’t go out to protest even for themselves. But Putin doesn’t care now. He doesn’t care about sanctions and death of his own soldiers,” Frolova said. “I’m afraid Putin’s plans go beyond Ukraine.”
“I was watching videos of the places where I’ve spent my childhood, now it’s all afire and I don’t know who to hate for that,” Frolova said.
Estevan’s Irina Vlezko also has family in Ukraine. Her and her husband’s families are in Putivl’ – a smaller city in the Sumy region. She said it’s surrounded by tanks as well. In Sumy and Konotop, which is about 100 kilometres from there, Russian troops are bombing military college and military bases, according to what she heard from her brother living in Konotop, and other people from the area.
Nowhere to run
She added that there is nowhere to run for her family – there is Russia on one side, and Poland is far away. As far as she was told, as of Thursday night, Konotop and Sumy were surrounded by Russian troops, but at that time they were letting civilians out of the ring without issues.
Vlezko’s brother, who lives in Konotop, sent her some videos Thursday of what was happening in the area (video below). Sumy’s artillery college was ablaze. Tanks could be seen in Konotop, and Vlezko was told a local fire station, gas stations part of railways and private houses were attacked and destroyed there.
As of Friday morning, the Russian military announced they had taken control over strategic Hostomel airport just outside of Kyiv, and cut the capital off from the west. Russian military actions in Ukraine that started in the early hours of Feb. 24 continue progressing from the eastern borders into the sovereign country.
On Friday, the Kremlin said Russia was ready to start talking with Ukrainian officials in Belarus in response to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's offer to discuss a non-aligned status for Ukraine. No further updates were available on this as of 9:30 a.m. central time on Friday.
Follow the Mercury and Sasktoday.ca for more local insights on the ongoing war in Ukraine.