Russia-Ukraine War: Live Updates – The New York Times

Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times

DNIPRO, Ukraine — Ukrainians in Russian-occupied territories find themselves in a uniquely conflicted position as their own army advances in the east and south: hopeful that Ukraine will reclaim their towns and villages, but fearful of the fighting required to do so.

“Every explosion makes us happy,” Serhiy, a retiree living in the southern port city of Kherson, said of the Ukrainian artillery and rocket fire that has been targeting Russian positions in and around his city. It puts him and his family in danger but also suggests that the Ukrainian army may reach the city soon, buoying their spirits.

“You know I’m imagining now how much all of us will cry and hug our soldiers when we see them,” he said.

Serhiy and many others in Russian-occupied territory, as well as those with family members still living under occupation, agreed to be interviewed via encrypted messenger apps but asked that their last names not be published for fear of reprisals from the Russian military in areas it still controls.

Ukrainian officials have appealed for everybody living in areas ahead of the advance to evacuate, even if it means escaping to Russia, and military commanders have said they take every precaution to avoid killing their own civilians. Nonetheless, the Ukrainian advance, fought with long-range artillery, will certainly wound and kill some civilians.

Halyna, who evacuated from the southern city of Melitopol with her children to Ukrainian-controlled land, now worries about her mother, who stayed behind and could soon be in the path of the counteroffensive. Still, she said she would prefer that the Ukrainian army push forward.

“We want to go home very much,” she said. “We also worry.”

Her mother and relatives have prepared as well as they can, Halyna said. “We already worked through with my mother how to behave and where to hide from the shelling,” she said. “We understand that it’s unavoidable. And we are ready.”

Over the past week, the Ukrainian army has recaptured 11 villages in the Kherson region in southern Ukraine.

In areas away from the front line and occupied territories, Ukrainians are cheering and counting the announcements of liberated villages coming daily from President Volodymyr Zelensky. For them, tracking the advance is uplifting.

But people who experienced the counteroffensive’s arrival in their towns tell of a horrifying several days. They hid in basements without understanding what was happening or who was in control, with communications cut off, not enough food, no proper medical aid and nonstop heavy artillery shelling.

“I am happy that the counteroffensive is ongoing,” said Oleksiy Vereshchaka, 39, a lawyer from Kherson, who evacuated into government-controlled territory two months ago but has family remaining in the city. “Unfortunately those who stayed in Kherson have to be ready for these events.”

Natalia, 73, who lives in Melitopol, seldom leaves her apartment because she is scared of Russian soldiers. Sometimes she chats on a bench next to her house with her friends. “We have sad news here, but we are all waiting for our boys and keep hope,” she said.

Many people who fled occupation are positive about the future and hope to return home, said Anton Moroz, the manager of Forpost in Dnipro, a nongovernmental group helping internally displaced people. Still, for older people, it has been an ordeal. “It is hard to move for old people; they get used to their homes, particularly those from the villages. For them it seems that life is over.”

Andriy, who evacuated from Kherson in early August, said the thuds of artillery and thunderous explosions of strikes on Russian ammunition depots have become more common. Once, after a loud explosion, he thought the Ukrainian army had entered the city, he said. “We ran outside with our neighbors shouting ‘Glory to Ukraine!’ but there were no Ukrainian soldiers, and we quietly came back to our flats.”

Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting.

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