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Trickling stream offers lifeline to survivors of Ukraine war zone

The water trickling from a pipe sticking out of a mound of dirt in Ukraine’s besieged city of Lysychansk offered the last lifeline to the emaciated bricklayer’s family of nine.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Artyom Cherukha crouched and listened to the shells whistling between shifting Russian and Ukrainian positions around him while slowly filling his plastic bottles from the natural spring.

A man-sized tail end of an Uragan missile hung between some branches of a tree a few steps above his leafy ravine.

But the 41-year-old seemed oblivious to the fact that the weapon could unleash death and destruction overhead.

He waited for the drips of water with his elbows planted on his knees and stared without moving.

“I feel total apathy. I am morally starved — not to mention physically,” he said in a voice devoid of emotion.

“We sit here counting the bombs.”

A crescent of industrial cities across Ukraine’s eastern front — populated by an untold number of residents hiding in cellars and basements — are steadily losing access to water and food.

Lysychansk was an important coal mining centre with centuries-old churches and 100,000 workers before Russia invaded its pro-Western neighbour on February 24.

The city’s ghostly streets now stand in ruins while its surrounding roads are being shelled with a ferocity that has forced all humanitarian supply missions to stop.

The highways leading out of Lysychansk and its sister city Severodonetsk are witnessing an organised retreat by some of Ukraine’s most hardened units and their biggest guns.

The few vehicles speeding in at breakneck speed to try and avoid the rockets and mortar fire appear to be primarily linked to rescue operations for Ukraine’s wounded troops.

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