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Ukraine’s tragic week shows there is no safe place in war

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A particularly sad week in Ukraine has been a stark reminder to many in the country that many places are not safe from violence in the war against Russia.

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A barrage of Russian missiles targeted an apartment building in the southeastern city of Dnipro last Saturday, and the death toll from that attack rose steadily in the days that followed. At least 45 civilians were killed, including six children.

Then on Wednesday, a government helicopter carrying the interior minister and other officials crashed into a children’s nursery building in a suburb of Kyiv. Due to this 14 including a child died.

Brovary resident Olga Penzilevich described how she was “still in shock” as she cleared the wreckage of burnt vehicles and debris next to the crash site where the helicopter fell.

The 62-year-old said she would never be able to shake the memory of seeing a government helicopter roll through the fog and crash into the nursery building. Or the frantic dash to rescue the kids afterwards.

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Nearby, Oksana Yuri, 33, looks at photos of the scene to try to tell investigators what happened to the accident.

“I thought it was a safe place,” she said. “Now I understand that there is no such thing.”

Ukrainians have learned a hard lesson in a week of mourning that saw at least 59 people killed in places many considered safe.

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Since February, he has seen lives lost in missile attacks and on the battlefield, and civilians dying in schools, theaters, hospitals and apartment buildings. They have suffered irreparable loss: a loved one, a place to call home, and for some, any hope for the future.

But this past week seemed to be a particularly brutal one for it.

The missile attack on Dnipro was the deadliest on civilians since the spring – in an area once considered safe for those who fled border areas to the east.

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Then Wednesday’s helicopter crashed. Interior Minister Denis Monastirsky, other members of his ministry, and the crew of the plane were killed. A child lying on the ground also died and 25 people, including 11 children, were injured.

Mr Monastirski, 42, was traveling to the front line when the Super Puma helicopter went down in fog, although no official cause has yet been determined.

There are heaps of flowers on the fence outside the nursery. A 73-year-old woman hung up a plastic bag full of aloe vera plants after reading that they could help burn victims heal.

But not all the mourning was in Brovary or on the Dnieper.

Oleksiy Zavadsky was laid to rest after falling in battle at Bakhmut, near the capital, at a cemetery in the town of Bucha, where fighting has been intense for months.

His fiancée, Anya Korostenska, dropped soil on his coffin after it was lowered into the grave. Then she burst into tears.

“The courage of our military and the motivation of the Ukrainian people are not enough,” President Volodymyr Zelensky told a news conference at Kyiv’s Mariinsky Palace on Thursday.

He appeared a day earlier in a video link to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he asked his high-powered audience to stand silently to honor those killed in the helicopter crash.

His wife, Olena Zelenska, who had personally gone to the conference to rally support for Ukraine, broke down in tears upon learning of the accident.

At an event on Thursday at Kyiv’s grand Fairmont Hotel, US Ambassador Bridget Brink told attendees that some embassy staff had been killed fighting on the frontlines.

“I know a lot of Ukrainians inside and outside the government are hurting right now,” she said, urging her audience of diplomats, businessmen and journalists not to lose faith.

“If you’re looking at it day-to-day, it’s almost too hard,” she said. “In the grand scheme of things, it’s a different story.”

Even in Dnipro, the survivors of the missile attack are not ready to give up.

Olha Botvinova, 40, celebrated her birthday at the hospital with balloons and cards. It wasn’t her actual birthday, she said, but she believes she was born a second time just by being alive.

“We plan to survive,” she said.

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