Russian offensive arrives in eastern Ukraine

This is the place where Sergei died. In the modest conservatory of his family home, a ground floor apartment in Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine.

Only his mother can be seen from the outside. Nadezhda Aleksandrova is framed by a broken window, her face a portrait of sadness.

From inside, Sergei can be seen on the floor at her feet. He lies as if asleep, a crimson puddle of fresh blood spurting from his pale head.

There’s a dent in the ground on the other side of the garden.

Shrapnel sprayed past the daffodils into the Freedom Street apartment, ending Sergei’s life at just 38 years old.

He was smoking by the window when it hit.

“Everything started, the glass fell down and I saw him lying in a pool of blood,” said Aleksandrova, retiring to the hallway in sorrow.

“I told him beforehand that we should go,” said his 68-year-old mother. “He said we should stay.”

Three men come to collect Sergei’s remains. They wrap him in a floral bed sheet and drag his body to a van.

The men spray their hands with fruit-scented antiseptic and slam the back doors.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called off his northern offensive to capture the capital Kyiv late last month.

But the invasion has again focused on Ukraine’s eastern flank.

On Friday, AFP witnessed the aftermath of several strikes in Kharkiv’s industrial zone – just 22 kilometers from the Russian border.

According to the authorities, ten people were killed and 35 injured by the Russian shelling in the district.

In Kharkiv, the charred remains of three rockets are visible - two smashed into the grasslands of residential buildings and a third in a nearby garbage can In Kharkiv, the charred remains of three rockets are visible – two smashed into the grasslands of residential buildings and a third in a nearby garbage can Photo: AFP / SERGEY BOBOK

The charred remains of three missiles were visible – two stabbed into the grassland from apartment buildings and a third in a nearby garbage can.

Around a dozen football-sized craters have also been spotted in the area, which AFP saw on a brief visit.

A fresh bloodstain could be seen next to a park bench in a common area.

Volodymyr Zhyrnov, 54, said he rushed to help an injured woman. She was taken away by the emergency services, her fate is unknown.

“These hands save people,” he says, recounting how he used his belt and a torn strip of his shirt to stop the bleeding.

His face still shadowed in shock, he offers his hand for a shake, but pulls away at the last moment.

He remembers that they are both still stained with blood.

After the explosions, a man appears next to his car and wipes the scratched windshield with a rag before repairing the shattered headlights with a thick roll of duct tape.

Nearby, a children’s playground slide is riddled with blast holes. Local residents compare shrapnel fragments that hit their homes.

All around are pierced windows.

One pierced by hot metal proudly displays a blooming orchid on the mantle behind.

A small white bird box is still hanging from another broken pane.

Serhii Belov, 40, was smoking upstairs by his window when he was spared shrapnel – a fortunate escape his neighbor Sergei was not granted.

The basement shelters aren’t good enough, he says, and residents are being forced to gamble with their lives under near-constant shelling as Russia’s offensive mounts.

“We have to wait all these bombings at home and pray that the bombs don’t hit,” he said. Russian offensive arrives in eastern Ukraine

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