Inside the Ukrainian Frontline City Residents Are Refusing to Leave

It’s been described by Ukrainian officials as “post-apocalyptic.”

As Russian forces encircle the city of Avdiivka, they are waging a battle that has destroyed entire neighborhoods and nearly cut off access to humanitarian aid for its remaining residents.

The streets are now littered with the ruins of blasted buildings, making them impassable by car. Schools, health clinics, shopping centers and apartment blocks have been left with gaping holes.

In the last few weeks, Russia has intensified its bombardment of Avdiivka, leaving it battered and largely abandoned after a year of war. The city was once home to 30,000 residents, but Ukrainian officials say around 1,800 are refusing to evacuate, including five children.

The New York Times embedded with Gennadiy Yudin, a Ukrainian police officer with a unit called the White Angels, as he went door to door trying to convince residents to leave. Many of them are old and vulnerable or cannot afford to live elsewhere. Some expressed nostalgia for the Soviet era and said they were waiting for Russian forces to liberate them.

Those who remain have moved their lives underground, surviving for months without regular supplies of heat and power. They are sleeping in basements, stockpiling food and water distributed by volunteers. Through the fighting, two small shops have stayed open for basic needs.

Avdiivka is now a military “red zone” that is off-limits to journalists. We spoke to residents about what’s keeping them there, despite daily shelling and rocket attacks, and the threat of Russian military occupation.

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