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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

In the rubble of a town near Kyiv, many are missing and feared dead

By Carlotta Gall

As many as 200 people are missing and presumed dead under the rubble of this small town that has been devastated by Russian airstrikes, the acting mayor said Tuesday.

Borodyanka is a one-street town, just northwest of Kyiv, the capital. A quiet, modest place, as one resident described it.

But it lies on a key access road leading to the capital, and it was among the first communities to be hit by Russia’s aerial bombardment in Ukraine’s 6-week-old war, Ukrainian officials said.

The town was visited by New York Times journalists on Tuesday, after Russian forces withdrew. The scars left behind are shocking. Great gashes have been sliced through multistory complexes along the main street. Four apartment buildings collapsed in the airstrikes, the layers of apartments crushed like a concertina to ground level.

Residents described fearful hours in the opening days of the invasion as Russian jets screamed overhead and explosions followed just seconds afterward.

Under the rubble, dozens of people who were sheltering from the bombardment in basements or in their apartments are thought to have been killed.

“We think over 200 people died,” Georgii Yerko, the acting mayor, said Tuesday. “But it is an assumption.”

His first task, he said, was to reconnect the electricity and remove unexploded ordnance. Then workers must clear the rubble.

Standing on a street of destroyed apartment complexes, Andreiy Ziuzko, 43, said he feared the worst. His mother, Svetlana Ziuzko, 66, was missing, along with another woman who was her neighbor and good friend. Their apartments lay in rubble, flattened by a bomb that fell through every floor.

“I can’t find her,” Ziuzko said. “We will wait till all the rubble is cleared.”

He said he had tried to climb into the basement to look for her but it was blocked by debris.

His own apartment building had also been destroyed. “The back of the building is gone — just the balcony is there,” he said, pointing to the sixth-floor balcony hanging above a vacuum.

He escaped the bombing because he had left hours earlier with his family when the building caught fire.

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