June 15, 2024

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Strategy of Terror – How Ukrainian Rescuers Risk Their Lives – News

Strategy of Terror – How Ukrainian Rescuers Risk Their Lives – News


They are the first to appear on the scene after airstrikes, rescuing people and putting out fires. But they increasingly find themselves at risk.

A bright spring morning follows a night of destruction: Russia again fired rockets at the southern Ukrainian port city of Odessa for the second night in a row. People died again.

Again Marina Averina and her people were in action. You can’t tell from looking at the young woman: she’s alert and focused as she greets us in front of the headquarters of the Odessa Region’s Civil Defense and Fire Department. The first thing she asks: “Do you go to the shelter when there is an air alarm? Yes? Bravo.”


Marina Averina at the headquarters of the Odessa Regional Emergency Management and Fire Department.


Fire engines are stationed in the great hall and stocked with thick boots, coats and protective gear. Averina, spokesperson for the rescue workers, explains the background of her question: In Odessa, the air alarm sounds often, and unfortunately many people no longer react to it because they want to continue their normal lives. This could lead to even more victims – and even more work for rescue workers.

Behind these was a terrible spring. On March 2, 12 people, including five children, died in the attack. They are hardened, Averina says, “but you can’t get used to children being killed.”

Rescue workers target?

A few days later, on March 15, the Russian Armed Forces launched a particularly treacherous attack on Odessa: the so-called “double plate strike”. 15 minutes after the first blast, a second rocket hit the same spot. 21 people died, including two rescuers, and eight helpers were injured.

It was a targeted killing of aides.

“15 minutes – that’s when the first rescuers arrive at the site, take care of the victims, and the firefighters start putting out the fire,” says Averina. “It’s a targeted killing by accomplices.”

Seeing colleagues lying on the ground, not knowing if they were alive, unable to attend to them because the paramedics were also on fire: it was terrible.

Psychological emergency help

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In Ukraine, civil defense and fire services are part of the State Emergency Service DSNS. Emergency services are the first on the ground during air strikes. Divers, chemists, dog handlers, psychologists, but also deminers and explosives experts work in their ranks.

Psychological support is especially important: in Odessa, for example, there is an ambulance for emergency psychological help. In the event of an attack, an ambulance immediately goes to the scene, as victims usually suffer from shock. The outpatient clinic is equipped with beds and chairs; The Odessa Regional Ambulance was named by the Swiss Relief Organisation Eastern European aid was donated to “Triumph of the Heart”.

Psychological support is also provided to rescue workers and firefighters, who are not only exposed to physical hazards due to their arduous work, but also have to deal with horrific scenes.

26-year-old firefighter Oleksij practices his job with passion. But he adds: “When you’re on duty and the air raid alarm goes off again, you want to run away. It’s so scary.” You know what happened to colleagues.

If we hadn’t done that, more people would have died.

Options for protecting rescue workers are limited. You could theoretically decide to stay in a shelter, Averina says. “But if, for example, a high-rise building is hit, as happened at the end of December, and people who are trapped call for help, you have to go there. If we hadn’t done that, a lot more people would have died.”

Once the rescue workers are on site, they are so focused on their work that they cannot get to the shelter in time in case of danger again. What remains is advanced equipment: bulletproof vests and helmets, in addition to already heavy specialized clothing. It at least protects against splits – but not against major explosions.

“Two tap strikes” are repeated

Targeted strikes against rescue workers are a war crime. Russia perfected the treacherous tactic of “double tapping” in Syria and has never been held accountable. Now the Russian armed forces frequently carry out such attacks in Ukraine: on May 19 in the area around the city of Kharkiv, in April in Zaporizhia and Kharkiv, to name the most recent cases – in addition to Odesa.

The goal is clear: kill as many people as possible and spread maximum terror. “Terrorizing the general public is an integral part of Russian war tactics,” says military observer and blogger Alexander Kovalenko.

He lives in Odessa. “Russia has been using this tactic practically every day since the beginning of the Great Invasion.” A series of airstrikes, attacks on infrastructure, and attacks with particularly treacherous cluster bombs – which also took place in Odessa on April 29 – all fall under this terror strategy. Kovalenko says the aim is to sow panic and break the will of the people to resist. A desperate populace demands that politicians come to an agreement with the occupier and make concessions.

Attack on the park in Odessa

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The Odessa Law Academy is known as the Harry Potter Castle.

Keystone/AP Photo/Victor Sajenko

On the evening of April 29, a warhead rocket loaded with cluster bombs hit a seaside park in Odessa. It was fired from the occupied Crimea peninsula. The popular local recreation area was busy, with people jogging, walking or walking their dogs after work. There is a beach, private houses and even a yacht club.

Small bombs spread over a radius of about 1.5 kilometers, killing seven people and injuring more than 30 people, including two children and a pregnant woman. The building known as Harry Potter’s castle was destroyed by fire.

The use of cluster bombs is internationally prohibited. However, they are used by the Russian and Ukrainian armed forces because of their military effectiveness. But attacking civilian property with cluster bombs is a war crime.

It is an unprecedented calculation in Ukraine. But the war is not over. Odessa, Ukraine’s third largest city, is vulnerable to Russian missiles. Air defenses can usually shoot down drones, but the missiles can only be protected by Western air defense systems – Ukraine has very few of them. Therefore, only the capital area of ​​Kyiv is currently protected.

The evening after our interview, another ballistic missile hit Odessa and the fire brigade and rescue workers were put on hold. A distribution center of a private postal company was attacked and burnt. Fortunately, all the employees survived: they reached the shelter in time.

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