Inside the living hell Ukrainian city where families brace for war miles from Russian troops on brink of invasion

BRAVE innocents in the Ukrainian city of fear closest to Russia’s huge invasion force spoke for the first time of their living hell today.

Teachers in battle-scarred Avdiyivka told how they carried on classes under fire and had learned to apply tourniquets to wounded children as they braced themselves for war.

And mums told how they had been forced to evacuate youngsters left shell-shocked by constant barrages from Vladimir Putin’s reckless army.

Avdiyivka – two miles from the “line of contact” between warring forces in the strife-torn eastern enclave of Donbas – was occupied by Russian troops before they were pushed back in 2014.

And it will be one of the first targets should Putin order his 175,000-strong force to invade to thwart Ukraine’s ambitions to join NATO.

The city – ringed by minefields – bears the scars of earlier conflict and is still regularly shelled by Russian-backed separatist artillery forces, who targeted a school in 2014.

Teacher Maya Zaytseva, 56, told how battle-hardened staff now keep pupils calm by continuing lessons if the sound of shelling erupts and are trained to treat war wounds.

Grandmother-of-two Maya told The Sun: “We carry on teaching under fire – we stay calm so the pupils will follow our lead.

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“But if the shells come to close we ask them to line up and walk to a shelter point away from windows.

“It is awful to see children covering their ears from the terrible noise of the explosions but it is a situation we have learned to live with.

“This is our life now and we are dealing with it.”

Avdiyivka was once a thriving industrial town of 40,000 but was overrun by Russian-backed forces which seized the city of Donetsk in 2014, sparking a World War One-style trench stand-off.

Ukrainian defenders forced their enemy back to positions outside the town – but artillery has continued to rain down sporadically.

Terrified locals fled leaving just 5,000 hardy souls behind – but many have since returned boosting the population to 25,000.

Mum Anya Velicko – from one of just 25 of 245 families left in a bombed-out block of flat facing the the front line – told how her schoolboy son was left shell-shocked.

Sasha, 12, was left so distressed by fear and the constant sound of explosions that he developed a heart defect which could lead to a cardiac arrest under stress.


Coke plant worker Anya told The Sun: “I was told he couldn’t carry on living in Avdiyivka because the constant stress could kill him so he stays with relatives far away now.

“My husband works in construction and our life is here so we have had no choice but to be apart from our boy.

“Our city has been left in ruins by the Russian forces but the morale of the people like me who stayed is still strong.

“We can only pray that Putin’s men don’t return.”

Civilians stories emerged as as military chiefs warned Britain and Europe will be swamped by a record refugee flood of millions of migrants if Russia invades.

All men of fighting age have been put on standby to pick up weapons and fight for every inch of ground in a guerilla war.

But they have been ordered to usher their families to safety first in a move certain to create one of the biggest migrant crises in history on Europe’s borders.

Tension spiralled again today as sabre-rattling Putin – whose tanks, troops and drones are massing on Ukraine borders to the north, south and east – issued more impossible demands.

The Russian strongman demanded an end to all NATO activity in Ukraine and eastern Europe.

His call came 24 hours after Ukraine’s parliament invited nations including Britain and the US to 10 major war game exercises in 2022.

Meanwhile, another Ukrainian soldier was killed in a mortar attack in border fighting and another was injured.

Ukrainian positions came under fire from machine guns, mortars, and grenade launchers overnight.

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