Residents shelter in Kharkiv's basements as threat of Russian attacks loom despite retreat

People in the city of Kharkiv have been living in basements for months as Russia continues to rain down attacks on Ukraine's second city, reports Senior International Correspondent John Irvine

Russian forces have been pushed back from Ukraine's second-largest city of Kharkiv, but despite this, attacks continue to rain down and the residents of the bombed-out city who are left are living in basements.

An ITV News team visited a school in the most-bombed district of Kharkiv where, at one point, hundreds of people were sheltering in the cellar.

Some 15 people remain in the school, surviving in cold and often dark conditions. Credit: ITV News

At the outset of the war on February 24, some 300 people sheltered in the school - but this number has now fallen to 15 as hundreds of civilians of the city of one million escaped to avoid Russian shelling.

But some locals have no other choice but to remain below in the damp, cold basement, since much of the city has been destroyed in the rounds of relentless enemy bombardment.

Ludmilla burns incense before saying her prayers. Credit: ITV News

"I have nowhere else to go, literally no other place," Ludmilla said.

"I am here with my husband because we have nowhere else."

As she burnt incense and prayed, she told John Irvine that she asks God to watch over the basement and keep everyone safe, as well as praying for peace.

The school's secretary has been sheltering with her son for 66 days as she felt it was her duty to stay and watch over the building.

While civilians try to keep their spirits up and stay warm underground, Russian rounds have rained above, as evidenced by shattered windows in the swimming pool and the apartments opposite the school.

While civilians have been sheltering in the basement, rounds have shattered all the windows in the school's swimming pool area. Credit: ITV News

The liberation of some villages north of Kharkiv has eased the pressure on Ukraine's second-city, which is seen as strategically vital in the Kremlin's war aims.

But some of its suburbs are still being heavily bombarded by long-range weaponry.

Close to the front line, ITV News crews reached a residential block that used to be home to 700 people but now houses just eight residents who are living in basements after their properties were destroyed.

Last month, Kharkiv's regional governor Oleh Synehubov said there had not been a single day without strikes since the start of the invasion.

In March, Dan Rivers reported from Kharkiv - which used to be a normal bustling city but is now a shell of what it once was

In March, the square of Kharkiv was the target of an attack by the Russian military, which left the City Hall building devastated, its windows blown out and the ceiling collapsed.

Reporting from Freedom Square in the middle of the city, ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers said it had become “completely devoid of any kind of normal life,” as residents were left in states of shock after buildings were destroyed by missile strikes.

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