By Anna Koper and Gerhard Mey
PRZEMYSL, Poland (Reuters) – Ninety-year-old Olha Moliboha and her daughter managed to get out of the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv just in time.
Soon after they left this week, Russian bombing destroyed a bridge linking Chernihiv to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. Local officials say it is now impossible to evacuate civilians or to bring in humanitarian supplies.
After reaching the eastern Polish town of Przemysl, Moliboha said there was no running water or electricity in Chernihiv, but that this would not stop residents defending themselves.
“We will defend ourselves to the last, as long as we are alive,” she told Reuters on Saturday at Przemysl railway station. “We believe that we will win.”
Sitting on a wheelchair, with her dog on her knees, she said Ukrainians had been attacked by their “so-called brothers, older brothers.”
“They attacked and bombed us. They destroyed everything in our city. So many children have died, so many women. All our houses are destroyed, they are not there anymore. There is nowhere to live,” she said tearfully.
Moliboha’s daughter, Nataliya Lukoshina, expressed gratitude to the volunteers who are helping evacuate people from Ukraine.
“They brought us out with the last column of vehicles. The next day the bridge was destroyed, they say, and nobody can be brought out (of Chernihiv),” she said.
“There are still children there, a lot of children. I don’t know how they’ll live.”
Chernihiv Mayor Vladyslav Atroshenko said on Saturday that 44 severely wounded people, including three children, could not be evacuated to safer areas for treatment.
In comments on Ukrainian television, he said there were up to 130,000 people without heating, electricity or water supplies in Chernihiv, which he said was under heavy bombardment by Russian forces.
The city had a pre-war population of around 290,000, he said.
After more than four weeks of fighting, nearly 3.8 million people have left Ukraine, with around 2.3 million fleeing the war to Poland.
U.S. President Joe Biden met some of the refugees during a visit to the Polish capital Warsaw on Saturday and described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “butcher”.
Przemysl station became an important entry point for refugees in the early stages of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Its halls and corridors bustled with refugees, volunteers and members of the public, some of them offering lifts to other European countries.
The number of people crossing the border from Ukraine has waned since then.
Putin calls Russia’s military actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” the country. Russia denies targeting civilians.
(Additional reporting by Felix Hoske in Gdansk, Editing by Timothy Heritage)