At full speed and with the SUV bouncing from pothole to pothole, Volodimir Fedutenko, 53, knows that he is doing the right thing by breaking the highway code. He does not have the slightest doubt. No one is going to fine a volunteer who risks his life behind the wheel of an SUV to get civilians who live trapped in enclaves that have been under bombs for months from the front lines.
In Dvorichna, a town in the Kupiansk district (in the east of the Kharkov region), the armies of Russia and Ukraine fight tirelessly, as EL PAÍS verified for several hours this Tuesday. The attacks have occurred almost daily since, last September, the local troops managed to expel the invaders through a counteroffensive. But these have remained at the gates of the town and, from the eastern bank of the Oskil River, they keep their artillery very active.
What upsets them the most is when they go to evacuate someone and they refuse to leave their house, says Ihor Klimenko, 46, the person in charge of the rescue mission and Fedutenko’s co-pilot. In any case, they do not doubt that they have to carry on with their volunteer work, even if they put their lives at risk themselves.
This Tuesday not only have they not been rejected, but they have had to expand the list of people who, in principle, were going to evacuate. It has been when going for Melania Yakovchuk, an 80-year-old woman. She is joined by her son Fedor, 60, and a neighbor, Alexandr Suhoveev, 41. They leave the house when several projectiles cause a loud noise in the surroundings. It is the prelude to an intense artillery fire that takes place minutes after being rescued.
“My house was destroyed, and also the house of my neighbors. I have nowhere to be. For six months I lived in the basement, then I moved in with the neighbors and yesterday an attack hit us and destroyed the house”, explains Suhoveev.
On the outskirts of Dvorichna, a van awaits the residents who are being evacuated. The SUV belonging to the volunteers Fedutenko and Klimenko, with whom this special envoy is traveling, is the one that is giving trips. At the entrance to the town, a military checkpoint inspects and takes photos of the documents of the leaving inhabitants. For those who do not have contacts or relatives, the authorities offer room and board.
Volodimir Fedutenko regrets that “people decide to stay until the last moment” and only agree to be evacuated “when their house or their neighbor’s house is bombed.”
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