Ukraine: Smoke billows from car fire in Kakhovka
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Inna Sovsun is standing inside her son’s school in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. The rooms are dark and cold, as is much of Ukraine. A large number of people there are without electricity, power and heating after relentless missile attacks from Russia. Last Christmas, no such problems existed. But after nine months of Russia’s invasion, the festive season is going to be very different this year in Ukraine.
“The situation in Kyiv is difficult”, Ukrainian MP Inna Sovsun tells Express.co.uk. “You can see here that the streets and the buildings are darker.
“For the last week, I have had no electricity except for a few hours in the middle of the night. Making food at home is impossible and it’s getting very cold in the buildings. It’s not very nice.
“I’m annoyed and frustrated. The only thing I want for Christmas is for my partner to come home. I cannot be with my loved ones because of this war.”
Her partner will likely remain in the east of Ukraine on the frontline. Ms Sovsun will still have her son and her parents to spend the Christmas period with, but she says her family is not in a celebratory mood as their country endures the hardships of war.
She continued: “I have put the Christmas tree up for my son, but I don’t have a single festive mood. I don’t want to spoil it for him, but it is spoiled because he has to come back to a dark apartment.”
Ukrainians have had to come to terms with how much their lives have changed in the ten months since Vladimir Putin began his invasion. But for parents like Ms Sovsun, it has also been a challenge to explain what is going on to their youngsters.
As the MP explains, Russia’s aggression has left its mark on even the schoolchildren of Ukraine.
“My son is a kid, he is 10”, Ms Sovsun said. “He cares about Christmas presents and decorating the tree. He is very annoyed with the Russians and says that he hates them and what they stand for.
“Yesterday his teacher asked him what he wanted from Father Frost (the Soviet equivalent of Santa Claus) and he said ‘Father Frost is Russian, he doesn’t come to our house’.”
While Ukrainian forces have successfully defended their capital city, where Ms Sovsun and her family still live, war has taken its toll on families across the country.
Ms Sovsun explained: “Sometimes my son gets scared. One time in November there was a big attack and we were about to go to school. I told him we were going to the Metro station for an adventure, and he asked me ‘mum am I going to die?’
“When we got to the Metro station, he also asked ‘are they nuclear bombs or regular bombs?’ He asked because he was proud that he had learned at school what to do if it was a nuclear bomb.”
While the war looks set to continue for a long period of time, there is at least some positivity in the fact that Russia’s forces have failed to achieve much of their objectives since the invasion started on February 24.
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In fact, recent months have seen Ukrainian troops take back key regions, including areas near the city of Kharkiv and the southern city of Kherson after Russian troops retreated.
Ms Sovsun and other Ukrainians may be struggling with the cold and the lack of basic supplies, but this has only made them more determined to win.
She said: “Putin is attacking civilians because he cannot do anything about our army. He is using desperate tactics because he thinks the civilians will beg Zelensky to negotiate.
“But we are only more determined to win this war. We cannot lose. If we lose Ukraine will not exist. It is better to live in darkness than under Putin.”
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