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The Telegraph
The Telegraph
Health
Ben Farmer

The last trains out of Kherson: ‘Liberated’ city evacuated as Russian artillery rains down

Andriy and Valeria with their father Alexander at Kherson railway station - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph
Andriy and Valeria with their father Alexander at Kherson railway station - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph

The jubilation of liberation a fortnight ago had all too quickly been replaced by the strain of daily shelling. It was time for the family to go.

As Andriy lifted his father Oleksandr from the platform at Kherson station onto a train bound for Kyiv, both were in tears at leaving their home.

The final straw had come overnight when a shell hit a neighbour's house on their street near the city's Antoniv bridge.

“It's impossible to live like that,” said Andriy.

“We worked all our lives to build our house and pay for it and now we have got to leave.”

Families are fleeing the city of Kherson under a constant barrage of artillery - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph
Families are fleeing the city of Kherson under a constant barrage of artillery - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph
Kherson Evacuation Train at Kherson Railway station waiting for the evacuation train to leave for Kyiv - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph
Kherson Evacuation Train at Kherson Railway station waiting for the evacuation train to leave for Kyiv - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph

Russian troops may have withdrawn from the city, which was the only regional capital seized in Vladimir Putin's February 24 invasion, but they remain only a few hundreds yards away over the Dnipro. 

The city they left is well within range of their artillery and Russian forces have fired hundreds of shells at the city, while Ukrainian guns fire back.

Daily shelling is killing residents, wearing on nerves and hampering efforts to get the power grid back up.

Yaroslav Yanushevych, governor of the region, said the city had again lost its power supply after heavy shelling on Thursday.

“There is no voltage in power lines in Kherson,” he wrote on his social media feed.

“This happened because of large-scale attacks on the city by the Russian invaders.”

Misha (on bunk 5yrs) with mum Elizabetha, and grandmother Apthea waiting for the evacuation train to leave for Kyiv - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph
Misha (on bunk 5yrs) with mum Elizabetha, and grandmother Apthea waiting for the evacuation train to leave for Kyiv - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph

More than 30 have been killed in the barrages since a Ukrainian counter offensive evicted Russian troops from the city on November 11.

Ukraine's government has encouraged residents to leave and has laid on free train transport and minibuses.

The services are hardly overwhelmed with passengers, but there is a steady stream of people leaving.

‘We have no electricity or water’

Pavlo Shevchenko, who was departing on an overnight train with his girlfriend, Anastasia Ukrainets, likened Kherson to the city of Mariupol, which was shattered by a Russian siege in the earlier stages of the invasion.

“There's shelling everywhere and we have no electricity or water,” he said. “The city feels really, really empty. On the first days, people were celebrating, but now it's empty.”

Another woman at the station was travelling with her five-year-old son, Misha, who clambered over the train bunks in his red pyjamas.

Anxiety had also pushed her out of Kherson.

“When I meet all the soldiers, I just want to hug them. But we are going because of the shelling. It's to save our nerves.”

Anastasia Ukrainets and Pavlo Shevchenko at Kherson Railway station - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph
Anastasia Ukrainets and Pavlo Shevchenko at Kherson Railway station - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph
Kherson Evacuation Train at Kherson Railway station waiting for the evacuation train to leave for Kyiv - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph
Kherson Evacuation Train at Kherson Railway station waiting for the evacuation train to leave for Kyiv - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph

Ukraine's military said Russia had pulled some troops from towns on the opposite bank of the Dnipro, but gave few details and did not say if Ukrainian forces had crossed the river.

Russia has already told civilians to leave towns within 10 miles of the river and withdrawn its civilian administration from the city of Nova Kakhovka.

“A decrease in the number of Russian soldiers and military equipment is observed in the settlement of Oleshky,” the military said, referring to the town opposite Kherson.

It said a force of mainly newly-mobilised reservists had dispersed in forest along a 15-mile stretch of road through riverside towns.

Ukraine's power grid has been so badly battered by waves of Russian missiles and exploding drones that will take time to fix, even with extensive European aid.

Diana her son Igor ( 4 yrs old first time on train) and husband Vitaly waiting for the evacuation train to leave for Kyiv - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph
Diana her son Igor ( 4 yrs old first time on train) and husband Vitaly waiting for the evacuation train to leave for Kyiv - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph
Serhiy and his cat Moska at Kherson Railway station waiting for the evacuation train to Kyiv - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph
Serhiy and his cat Moska at Kherson Railway station waiting for the evacuation train to Kyiv - Heathcliff O'Malley for The Telegraph

Both America and the European Union have begun to deliver transformers and heavy generators and pledged tens of millions of pounds of equipment. But Andriy Herus, head of Ukraine’s committee on energy and housing, said some parts would have to be manufactured from scratch, which he predicted would take six months.

He said: “During this winter it is impossible to restore all the damaged facilities of the energy infrastructure. The Ukrainian energy system is under constant Russian fire.”

Ukraine's deputy minister of internal affairs, Yevhen Yenin, has said that 700 infrastructure targets, ranging from sub stations to fuel depots and bridges, had been hit and he estimated 520 cities, towns and villages were facing power supply problems.

As the blackouts stretched on and temperatures fell, nine people were killed in accidents in the country as they resorted to emergency generators, candles and gas cylinders to try to heat and light their homes after power outages.

Ukrainians have been warned to brace for another wave of attacks similar to last week's onslaught, which left millions without power.

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