Cycling to freedom: The perilous bike trip Ukrainians face to escape Russian forces

Ukrainians trying to flee Russian-occupied Kherson are making a frightening journey on bikes, ITV News Senior International Correspondent John Irvine reports

Bicycles are piling up in Zelendolsk, the first town in free Ukraine reached by people who manage to escape from Russian-occupied Kherson by peddling out.

Some of them have white rags tied to the handlebars, the equivalent of white flags. The journey is a perilous one.

ITV News has been given Ukrainian Army drone footage of people making the arduous journey on the one road that offers the possibility of throwing off the Russian yoke.

They have to ride bicycles or walk because Russian soldiers have stolen their cars.

Some have to make the journey on foot.

The drone operator says watching his fellow Ukrainians make the exhausting journey touches his soul.

Every instinct tells him he should help them but he can’t.

"If soldiers were to intervene everyone would get killed by the Russians. It’s tough standing idly by and watching the elderly walk or even crawl."

Just south of Zelendolsk we find bicycles used by the latest arrivals. They are lying beside what is Ukraine’s Checkpoint Charlie, the army post on the road where people know they’ve made it.

Bikes left behind after the journey has been made.

Most of the Kherson region has been under Russian control since early in the war.

The Ukrainians are planning a counter-attack to take it back. The government has asked people to flee to get them out of harm’s way.

The Russians are trying to keep them in Kherson so they act like human shields.

One man who rode his bike to freedom said it was a scary journey.

“No-one wants to be shot in the back.”