Sergei Gaidai, governor of Lugansk, a region in eastern Ukraine constantly bombed by Russian forces, said he “need to be prepared for the worst”, in an interview with AFP on Sunday.
The region encompasses the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, which are under intense attack by the Russian army. “They bomb our positions 24 hours a day,” Gaidai said.
In Lysychansk, everything is gearing up for street fighting: soldiers dig holes and lay barbed wire, and the police put burnt-out cars on the streets to slow down traffic.
“An expression says: you have to prepare for the worst and the best will only come”, he adds. The official, who has warned several times that Russian troops will eventually surround Lysychansk and cut off the city’s main supply roads. “It’s a war, anything can happen.”
From Lysychansk, Ukrainian artillery attacks Russian positions in Severodonetsk, and the Russians respond with mortars and rockets.
“No Safe Place”
“Look at how Severodonetsk resisted: you can see that the Russians do not fully control the city… They cannot go any faster and place their big guns and tanks”, explains the governor.
Like other Ukrainian officials, he hopes the country’s western allies will deliver more long-range weapons “as soon as possible”. “It’s good that the West helps us, but it’s too late,” he lamented.
The governor also said that “it is extremely risky” to go to Severodonetsk and that there is no safe place in the entire Lugansk region.
“We don’t abandon them”
Life is very hard for the “10%” of Lysychansk’s inhabitants who have remained in the city, without a telephone network, running water or electricity. They cook with firewood and live in sheltered basements.
“We tried to convince them to leave, but some categorically refuse. Only a small percentage hope that Moscow will make the region a Russian world,” according to Gaidai.
He communicates the state of the conflict daily through social networks such as Telegram or Facebook. “We need to talk to counter Russian propaganda, but also so that the people of the region understand that we have not abandoned them.”