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‘They were very good people’: Ukrainian finds her in-laws dead on the street

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It was without warning that grief descended on the residents of a sleepy, sylvan street on the edge of a small neighbourhood in eastern Ukraine.

The war had hardly touched Bakhmut, but in one powerful explosion that would all change.

The blast wave from the airstrike was so big, it shook buildings for miles around, including the place where we were staying in the centre of the town in Ukraine.

When we arrive, people are outside what’s left of their homes, some in their dressing gowns.

Looking at the devastation it’s difficult to understand how many of them survived.

Troops brace for escalated Russian attacks – Ukraine war live updates

Two people, who we later find out are a retired couple called Lyuda and Volodymyr, were not so lucky.

Their lifeless bodies lie on the street, covered simply in blankets.

A Russian airstrike destroys apartment in Bakhmut, Donetsk region. Pic: AP
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The Russian airstrike upturned apartments in Bakhmut. Pic: AP
Bakhmut
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Debris litters the neighbourhood

In front of them there’s a mountainous pile of rubble and wood – it was once their home.

All of the people are distraught, but one woman stands out as she stumbles across this hellscape.

Her balance falters at times.

Navigating her way around the enormous bomb crater is difficult.

It’s a huge gaping hole in the ground, many metres deep and several metres wide.

As she comes towards the bodies you can feel the rawness of her shock and sorrow.

Tears roll down her cheeks, her eyes are shadowed with grief.

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Her name is Nadia, and the dead are her relatives, whom she, along with her husband, has come to identify.

Lifting the blankets confirms what they did not want to be true.

“They were my in-laws. They were kind, very good people.

“We were speaking on the phone just four or five days ago and I was asking her for seeds. We were speaking on the phone,” she says, her voice quivering with shock.

Everyone is traumatised here, damaged by a conflict they did not want and are powerless to stop.

Natalya, whose son Vasily’s house has been destroyed, cannot understand why this has happened.

She’s distraught.

“Why not America, why not Australia, nobody helps us. They don’t give us rockets. They don’t give us tanks to shoot them to stop this from happening. Why does nobody defend us?”

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It is a sentiment that many people here have – whatever weapons are being provided by the West are simply not enough.

Debris has been blasted across the neighbourhood and bits of cloth, clothing perhaps, flaps in the trees.

Vasily appears calm but he, like everybody, is frightened by what’s happened.

His house is in ruins and he doesn’t know where he’s going to live with his wife and three children.

Pic: AP
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The bomb crater easily dwarves a local man. Pic: AP

He’s overwhelmed by the magnitude of what’s happened, but he’s alive.

Somehow his entire family escaped, even though they were sleeping inside at the time.

“I can’t even describe how terrifying it was. I understand people see more terrifying stuff but it was the first time I saw such a thing and I am still in shock and I can’t put it into words to describe that feeling,” he says nervously.

With its military advance stalling, Russia’s bombing campaign across eastern Ukraine is intensifying.

And as a woman salvages what she can from the kitchen of her family home she tells me there were no weapons, or soldiers nearby.

“This is a war crime. Yes, this is a war crime. Nobody needs this, nobody. Will anybody be found responsible for this – who will be accountable for the people that were killed and those that are dying,” she says, her voice sharp with anger.

This is just one street in one town paying the price of the Kremlin’s aggression.

But with people across the country bracing themselves for more attacks, there will be many more lives destroyed, as Russia starts what appears to be a new offensive.

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