Missiles after midnight: Life on the contact line in Kramatorsk
16th March 2022

By Kate Geraghty and Anthony Galloway

Residents clean up the damage from a missile attack at 2:40 am on Monday 14th of March.Credit:Kate Geraghty

Beekeeper Ihor Zakablukov doesn’t know why a Russian missile landed in front of his home. The attack destroyed his car, smashed the windows and roof and ruined his hives.

Beekeeper Ihor Zakablukov lost his bees in the missile attack on Monday. His home and car were also damaged. Credit:Kate Geraghty

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces dropped at least two missiles in the neighbourhood in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk in the early hours of Monday morning, killing two people.

It’s unclear what the Russians were aiming for on Vodobaky Street in the south-west of the city when they fired the missile about 2.40am. Perhaps they were trying to hit the military building a few streets over. It wouldn’t be the first time in this campaign the Russians have missed their target and killed civilians instead.

A young Ukrainian woman on the balcony of her apartment building, which was damaged by Russian missile attacks on Kramatorsk.Credit:Kate Geraghty

One of the missiles left a five-metre crater just in front of Zakablukov’s property. The shrapnel from the missile ricocheted in all directions on impact, smashing into houses and apartment buildings. Zakablukov, 57, said his apiaries, which are his only livelihood, were completely destroyed.

“There was a massive whistle sound for three seconds and then a bang,” Zakablukov said.

Russian forces have been stepping up their attacks on Kramatorsk, which serves as the administrative centre of Donetsk region, where the country has been in an eight-year conflict with Moscow-backed separatists.

More than 900 Russian missiles have rained down on targets across Ukraine in the past three weeks, according to US estimates. A military barracks unnervingly close to the Polish border was a target, as were the devastated northern cities of Kharkiv and Sumy, while Russian troops have overwhelmed and encircled many cities in the south, most notably the port of Mariupol, which has been without power or water for more than a week.

But the contact line that held the separatists at bay for eight years remains intact, although fighting along this front line remains deadly and constant.

A day before Zakablukov’s neighbourhood was attacked, Russian air strikes hit the city’s airport. Kramatorsk residents are afraid Russian forces will eventually overrun Ukrainian troops and take over their city.

Misha, 11, heard a plane, then the blast of a missile attack near a residential apartment building in the early hours of Monday morning.Credit:Kate Geraghty

“I expect in the short future there will be a massive destruction of the whole city,” Zakabluko said.

Asked whether he knew why Russia invaded Ukraine, he said: “I have no answer, I don’t understand why they invade.”

His neighbour Serhiy Okhonenko’s roof was ripped wide open in the same attack.

Serhiy Okhonenko, 47, looks up at remains of his roof, destroyed by this week’s Russian attacks. Credit:Kate Geraghty

Okhonenko, 47, hopes the Russian forces won’t reach his city, but concedes he and his family are afraid they will.

“We cannot escape to anywhere, we have to stay here,” he said.

“Putin is a mad man. The [Russian] soldiers are slaves of Putin. He said ‘kill people’, so they are killing people.”

In this predominantly Russian-speaking city, there are varying views about the Ukrainian government and Russia.

There were two known missile strikes on Kramatorsk on March 14.Credit:Kate Geraghty

A neighbour, who declined to give his name, said he blamed both sides for failing to reach a political settlement.

“Both sides could make some agreement to stop the war. Both sides are fighting, and locals are the casualties,” he said.

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