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Leaving his life in Bakhmut seemed impossible. Now he has lost a friend, a limb and a livelihood


Editor’s Note: Warning: This story contains details that some readers may find offensive.


Kostiantynivka, Ukraine
CNN

The streets outside the house of Vyacheslav Tarasov on the eastern frontline of Ukraine are filled with shell explosion. The surrounding buildings were mostly empty, windowless and cold.

Bakhmut had faced unrelenting fire from frustrated Russian troops for months. In pursuit of victory on an increasingly rare battlefield, Moscow razed buildings with rockets and missiles, and sent countless waves of infantry to fight among destroyed houses.

Tarasov, 48, is sheltering from shelling in his basement, where he must live. But last week, he took a risk – buying vegetables to make the national dish, borscht.

“I don’t know what was used,” he recalls. “But the force was amazing because my arm flew off, just like that… I was holding my intestines in my hand.”

His face paled as he relayed the graphic images still fresh in his mind. “I was wearing a leather jacket and without it, I would have exploded. I mean, my guts will be all over the place… I’ve lost a lot of blood. I remember seeing it – a big puddle.”

The explosion that ripped through Tarasov’s body killed his friend, and as the shelling continued, he realized that he might not make it, too. “I’ll tell you the truth,” he said. “I prayed to survive.”

Tarasov is a devout Christian and believes an “invisible force” saved his life. He is also grateful to the Ukrainian soldiers who threw him into their pickup truck and drove him to a hospital in Kostiantynivka – one of the few remaining hospitals that can treat civilians wounded in the war. painting.

When Tarasov arrived, he begged the doctors to save his limb. “The first thing I asked was if I could stitch my arm back. I saw that it was completely ripped off and just hanging from the sleeve. And my stomach is hot. I guess it must be the bowels coming out. There is blood everywhere.”

Vyacheslav Tarasov, a 48-year-old builder, lost his right arm after shelling in Bakhmut.

Medical workers in Kostiantynivka are still continuing their work amid power outages and water shortages due to Russia’s repeated attacks on the power grid. For eight hours a day last week, they had to rely on generators to turn on the lights and keep warm.

“Sometimes the power goes out,” chief surgeon Dr. Yuri Mishasty told CNN, still wearing a work protective suit. “Water comes by the hour, not often. There was no water at the weekend because there was a catastrophic shelling.”

The surgeon, 62, had just completed surgery on a woman who was brought in earlier that afternoon.

“She is a resident of Bakhmut. She was hit by a shell and suffered a shrapnel in the abdomen along with damage to several organs. We see people with these injuries every day. Daily.”

Doctors operate on a woman injured by shrapnel at a hospital in Kostiantynivka.

Surgeon Yuri Mishasty treats injured civilians in nearby Bakhmut every day.

As the Russian army intensified its campaign to capture Bakhmut, the shelling came closer and closer to Kostiantynivka, 25 kilometers (about 15 miles) to the west. The director of the hospital said that since the beginning of the month, the town has been attacked almost every day.

Meanwhile, medical staff heard the constant sound of firecrackers around Bakhmut – unwanted signals that another patient might soon be on the operating table.

“It’s been quite noisy lately,” said Khassan El-Kafarna, a surgeon from Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF), based at the hospital. His colleague, nurse Lucia Marron, agrees. “I think in general there is more movement – ​​more troops, more people,” she said. “We are used to the sound. You’ll get to the point where you understand what’s dangerous and what’s not.”

Local authorities have been urging civilians to leave the area for months. But for Tarasov, as for so many in Ukraine’s old industrial heartland, fleeing their homes to a safer area seemed impossible.

“If I had a lot of money, I would rather live abroad,” Tarasov said. “But I had no money and all that I saved was invested in it. I have no money and nowhere to go.”

To stay in Bakhmut is to cling to what remains of his life which he worked so hard in peacetime. That life has now changed irrevocably.

Tarasov, a builder before the war came to Ukraine, says: “I am right-handed. Now I won’t even be able to wind a tape measure.

“I am half human, half undead. Exactly half a person.”

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