Ukrainian and Russian soldiers fight in the street near Kyiv

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Ukrainian and Russian soldiers fight in the street near Kyiv

IRPIN, Ukraine — Ukrainian and Russian soldiers were fighting street-by-street battles on Saturday in Irpin, just outside the capital of Kyiv, a leafy suburb two weeks ago on a burgeoning battlefield.

Russian troops have already achieved this once or twice closer to the capital. And although the loss of the city would not mean an immediate advance on Kyiv, a Russian victory here would help tighten the cordon around the city, according to military analysts.

Some residents fleeing their homes on Saturday were crying as they placed plastic bags on the concrete rubble of a destroyed bridge.

More than a week ago, the Ukrainian army blew up a crossing on the Irpin River to prevent rolling down Russian tanks. Just a few days earlier, along this escape route, a mother, her children and a family friend were killed in a fierce gunfight.

On Saturday, one of the Ukrainian fighters trying to keep the Russians at bay, a man named Vitaly, took a position outside what would have once been an impossible location for war: a gas station mini-market, its windows now The shelling was fired, on the western edge of the city. It’s his hometown, and he joined volunteer forces called the Territorial Defense Forces to try to save it only two weeks ago.

“We’re trying to push them back,” he said, “but we don’t control the city.”

The battle for the northwestern suburb of Irpin—about three miles from Kyiv’s city limits—was literally echoed in the capital, where low rumblings of continuous fire could now be heard over much of the city. Artillery fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces in the suburbs intensified on Friday and continued throughout the day on Saturday.

Ukrainian forces were shelling the Grad rocket artillery, which was shot from a truck-mounted box of rockets, usually with a dozen or more being fired at a time. Although the artillery was out of sight, the sound of rockets being fired, followed by a distant tremor a few seconds later, could be heard every 20 minutes.

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So far on Saturday, the rocket passed over Irpin instead of hitting it.

A construction engineer, 33-year-old Vadim Kovalchuk, who had also been a volunteer soldier, described Irpin which he has known as a “wonderful city”, an ideal destination for those who want to visit Kyiv and its Want to be closer to the job market and schools.

Real estate was cheaper than in the city centre, he said, and the city had developed over the past two decades as newcomers were attracted to its location. Many people traveled by car to work in the city center until the peace was broken.

As Russian forces advanced into such cities over the past week, Ukrainian forces retaliated by ambushing armored columns. As of Saturday, there was no sign of further efforts by the Russian military to move those columns closer to the city.

With Russian infantry now holding positions in parts of Irpin, the flow of internally displaced people from the city into Kyiv on the remains of the bridge was slowed largely in a move by older people who managed to get out earlier. had not happened.

The city is one of two main routes into the capital, which have now been blocked by the Russian military. The second approach for Moscow’s troops is outside another suburb, Brovry, to the east, the site of a Ukrainian ambush of a Russian tank column on Wednesday.

Systems administrator-turned-cop Vitaly described the battlefield on Saturday, but gave only his first name for fear of his own safety.

Three main streets run through the city, he explained, running between high-rise apartment blocks and seven municipal parks. The park was a selling point for families moving to the suburbs before the war.

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He said on Saturday morning Unity Street was under Ukrainian control. Central Street was a no man’s land, exposed to both Ukrainian and Russian forces. And the Russian army was hiding in buildings along University Street.

But he said the situation was fluid. Ukrainian troops had a “little island” surrounding a shopping center near the city centre, but otherwise it was not always clear who was where.

Under the mostly destroyed bridge, green water seeped over the concrete blocks. Wooden planks have been laid over the rubble for people to escape to cross one or two at a time. On the other hand, discarded bags of clothes, castoff suitcases and other items went on the trail.

Towards Irpin, the road was filled with rows of abandoned cars about half a mile long, standing three rows deep. A gray Skoda had left the driver’s door open and its windows were covered with printer paper that read, “Kids.” The white-coloured Hyundai Clarity had a bullet hole in its windshield.

Natalia Yaromova, 50, was one of those walking towards the bridge on Saturday. She and her husband had waited to leave because she wanted to do everything she could to help her fellow residents.

His home confectionery business called Sweet Happiness for Everyone had copious stocks of baking ingredients before the fight broke out. He gave food, gave food in the first two weeks of the war.

“I had a lot of leftover cakes in the freezer — cream, eggs, sugar,” she said. “We stopped to cook.”

The whole cargo of sweet happiness for everyone was now over, she was leaving.

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