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Russian fuel strike casts pall of war over Ukraine village

A fuel storage facility burns after Russian attacks in the city of Kalynivka, Ukraine March 25, 2022. — AFP pic

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KALYNIVKA (Ukraine), March 26 — A black pillar of smoke from a burning military fuel storage site hangs over the sleepy Ukrainian village of Kalynivka, turning the midday sun into a pale disc.

Fireballs still leap from the charred wreckage a day after Russia attacked the site some 40 kilometres (26 miles) south of Kyiv, with Kalibr cruise missiles.

“We saw the explosion and the blazing fire. It was very scary,” factory worker Tamila Ivanyuk, 57, tells AFP outside a local shop.

Kalynivka is a quiet agricultural village of traditional Ukrainian houses, dotted with willow-lined ponds.

But residents fear it could be a future target for Russian forces if their stalled bid to encircle the capital ever gains steam.

It has already suffered several attacks, while the nearby airport at Vasylkiv was destroyed by Russian strikes on March 12.

The sheer scale of the explosion at the fuel depot is however beyond anything they have experienced since Russia’s invasion four weeks ago.

“Even the windows shattered in several houses” in the village, which is about two kilometres from the fuel site, said barista Ania Volfram, 19.

“We are worried now that this fire would spread further to residential buildings,” she said.

The attack came a day before Russia said it had completed the first phase of its invasion, and would focus now on the Russian-speaking Donbas region in the east.

‘Stay in our Ukraine’

Moscow claimed that the depot supplied Ukrainian troops in the central part of the country and that it attacked it with “Kalibr high-precision sea-based cruise missiles”.

Ukraine, which needs all the resources it can get to hold off its larger neighbour, confirmed the strike happened at around 8:00 pm (1800 GMT) on Thursday.

It was still blazing furiously a day later. Several wrecked white fuel tanker lorries lay at the scene and a smaller fire blazed from a severed fuel line.

Ukrainian civil defence volunteers occasionally stopped at the site to question journalists about what they were doing there.

The explosion “was very big,” a security guard at the facility said at a checkpoint near the depot, asking not to be identified.

“Fortunately, there were no casualties.”

Residents said that despite being dozens of kilometres from the frontline, Russia had hit the village between five and ten times, including firing at a fish-processing plant.

Volfram said it was “very frightening but for the time being there’s nowhere to run.”

He accused Moscow of trying to destroy Ukraine’s infrastructure to drive out its people.

Some 3.7 million people have fled the destruction in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, but Kalynivkans say they will stay despite the fuel depot blast.

“We stay in our Ukraine,” says Ivanyuk, the factory worker, describing Russia’s invasion as an “unbelievable” attack on peaceful people.

“Besides, Europe is overpopulated with our citizens. So far we are not planning to go anywhere and will stay in our country.” — AFP

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