Ukrainian city fears occupation from forces massed over Belarus border

Their frontier city has already been besieged once – but the brave residents of Slavutych have sworn to keep their homes free as Russian invaders mass again in Belarus.

The area was one of 13 crossings from Ukraine to the ex-Soviet republic, until Kyiv’s forces blew up the road bridge to the Kremlin’s hardline ally in a defensive move.

In recent weeks, Ukraine and Belarus have held military exercises on the 674-mile border, anticipating fresh conflict.

Tetiana Oleksandr of Slavutych Council, said locals fear Putin’s forces will attack like last year: “We don’t want to see the Russians here. There is direct danger. We know the results after the occupation in [massacre site] Bucha. That’s what we can expect here.” The first battle of Slavutych came last March, soon after Putin invaded.

His army surrounded the city for nine days, cutting off electricity and food supplies. Several Ukrainian soldiers were killed.

The mayor of Slavutych was kidnapped, then freed as thousands of locals protested in its main square. Russia may be planning another assault from Belarus, according to the Ukraine regime and its allies – putting Slavutych’s 25,000 population on the front line once again.

Ms Oleksandr said: “We have shelters, we make it warm, places for people to gather if there is no lighting, heating, internet – all the things are ready. People have their small packages for an emergency situation, everyone understands.

“Some family has a father who is a fighter – they must run away. Some people will try [to] get weapons. We have very huge belief in our armed forces of Ukraine.”

Slavutych was built after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster to house power plant staff, their families and other evacuated residents following the deadly blast and radioactive leaks at the nuclear power plant.

But Sergiy Popligin, head of operations at the Chernobyl safety structure, said the risk of nuclear catastrophe is now higher due to the war than it was in 1986.

Russian forces seized the Chernobyl exclusion zone and power plant on day one of their invasion but withdrew last April.

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