Agence France Press has filed a dispatch from Irpin after a Russian withdrawal returned it to Ukrainian control. The city suffered an extraordinary level of devastation and an evacuation operation is underway.
The last survivors of the ruins of Irpin Ukraine is just a word to describe the retreating Russians after a crucial battle of the war.
“Fascist!” Bogdan, 58, is furious when he and his friends walk a dog through a deserted city center that is free from shelling for the first time in a month. His friends nod their heads in agreement.
“Every 20 to 30 seconds we heard mortar shots. And so on all day. Just destruction,” the tent construction worker told AFP reporters who arrived in Irpin on Friday.
It used to be a smart commuter city in the pine forests on the northwest edge of Kyiv. But Irpin withstood the full force of the Russian invasion, becoming Moscow’s closest army to the center of the capital, about 20 kilometers (12 mi) away. The city, once a leafy park laden with dead bodies, is now back under Ukrainian control, as Russian forces hastily pull back from outside Kyiv.
The conquest came at a dire cost that has left Irpin in Ukraine looking more like Aleppo or Grozny than a thriving satellite city. Barely one building has completely survived the battle. The shelling has destroyed large sections of the modern, pastel-colored apartment blocks. The foggy streets are terrifyingly empty, lined with cars with windscreens marked with bullets, and buzzing with the sound of stray dogs.
“It’s the apocalypse,” says a Ukrainian soldier as he rides into the empty city.
Irpin has been closed to the media for the past three weeks following the death of an American journalist that Ukrainian officials said was too dangerous to enter.
Now, near a sign in the city center that reads “I love Irpin” with a red heart, a handful of city residents describe how they survived more than a month of relentless shelling.
“We hid in the basement. They fired Grad rockets, mortars and tank shells,” says Bogdan, only to be identified by his first name. “My wife and I came under mortar fire twice. But it’s okay, we’re alive and well.”
Rescuers are still evacuating the dead from Irpin and placing them in body bags before transporting them to the blown-up bridge connecting the city with Kyiv. The bridge is covered with dozens of burnt, bullet-riddled and abandoned cars, which rescuers are now trying to remove.