Orykhiv, Southeastern Ukraine – Ukraine Claims to be advancing months of fierce fighting for the eastern city of Bakhmut. its leader Wagner’s mercenary troupe of RussiaThat has led Moscow’s efforts to try to capture the industrial city, admitting that Ukrainian troops have gained.
with him Ground combat struggle, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces stepped up their airstrikes on Ukrainian cities ahead of a long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive. President Volodymyr Zelensky urged his people to be patient, saying Ukraine could lose many more lives if the attack starts too soon.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians continue to bear the brunt of Putin’s attacks on cities along the front line in the country’s east. Only three miles from the Russian positions, Orikhiv bears all the scars of the battlefield. The city sits on the front lines of this war, and the few residents who haven’t already fled live in constant fear of a Russian invasion.
Above ground, Orykhiv has been reduced to a ghost town of shattered glass and ruined buildings. But below street level, CBS News met with Deputy Mayor Svitlana Mandrich, working hard to keep herself and her community together.
“Every day we get strikes,” he said. “Grad Missiles, Rockets, Even Phosphorus Bombs.”
Mandrich said the bombings are getting worse.
“We don’t hear launches, only strikes,” he said. “It’s very scary for people who don’t have enough time to find cover.”
The deputy mayor took our CBS News team to a school that has been turned into a bomb shelter and a community center.
From a pre-war population of about 14,000, about 1,400 hardy souls remain. The last cubs left Orihiv three weeks ago, when it became too dangerous. Locals say the city comes under day and night attacks, including rockets that target schools.
Ukraine’s government calls shelters like Orikhiv “points of invincibility” — a deliberately defiant title. Like others across the east of the country, it is run by volunteers – residents who have decided to stay and serve in other holdouts despite the risks.
Mandrich says every time there’s an explosion above, fear grips him and others take cover. He said he was “always scared to hear our people die.”
As he spoke to us, it was like an explosion.
“It was ours,” he explained calmly. “Outgoing.”
Hundreds of “points of invincibility,” like schools, offer front-line residents a place not only to escape the daily barrage, but to weather power outages, to be warmed and fed, and even to take a hot shower and do some laundry. There is even a barber who comes once a week to cut hair.
Mandrich said it was nothing more than a small village within the city. The school is “like civilization amidst all the destruction.”
Valentina Petrivna, one of those taking refuge, said her home “is no more” after the bombing. But he told CBS News he won’t be leaving his hometown.
“I’m not so worried – I’m more worried about my children. My son is fighting, and my grandchildren are in Zaporizhia,” he said, referring to the nearby major city, which is under constant attack by Russian forces.
In Orikhiv who defiantly put out a hot drink and share more than each other’s company. They are united in protest – and hope that the war will end soon, so that families can be reunited.
Residents told CBS News that despite their town’s precarious position on the front lines, they can’t wait for the counteroffensive to begin. They are desperate for Ukrainian troops to push the Russians back so far that they lose interest in indiscriminate bombing around Orikhiv.