'We've escaped from hell': The town at the centre of fighting in Ukraine

ITV News Correspondent John Ray reports from the Ukrainian town of Vovchansk, where desperate attempts have been made to rescue civilians from the frontline

The last few miles are taken at break-neck speed through lanes and fields.

Ahead, smoke rises from Vovchansk, the town at the centre of ten days of fighting.

It's our destination. We've joined a rescue mission with the local police, but our convoy is a target too.

A small group of civilians are waiting for us, hiding under the trees by the side of the road to shield them from Russian drones. We can hear one buzzing overhead; it is just one of many terrors they have faced.

Quickly, the evacuees are bundled into police vehicles.

Civilians await rescue in Vovchansk while shielding from Russian drones. Credit: ITV News

Raisa Zemovska’s face is cut. There's a wound on her hand. But it's not the worst she has suffered.

"The body of my husband is lying over there," she points down road. "So is my godmother. I'm leaving, and they're lying there unburied. It's hell."

They were killed trying to leave the town before the weekend, but no one dares to remove their corpses.

No more than five minutes, and we're told to leave, as it's too dangerous to stay. Our exit across the fields is as fast as our entry.

We arrive at a meeting point, still well within range of Russian guns. There is a great deal of artillery fire, unnervingly close.

Mychola Migushenko is an elderly man with a filthy makeshift bandage wrapped around his foot. He's lost his toes and a part of his finger. They are by no means the deepest scars he bears.

Mychola Migushenko's wife was killed when a rocket hit their house. Credit: ITV News

"There was a rocket into the house. My wife was killed," he says, producing her passport to show me her photograph.

Her name was Victoria, and they were married for 40 years. I ask where she is now.

"I had to bury her in the vegetable garden. I told the police, but they said they couldn't come," he says. "They said, just bury her yourself."

Ukraine claimed today it still controls 60% of Vovchansk. But their rescue operations suggest that hold is at best tenuous.

Raisa Zemovska's husband and godmother were killed in Vovchansk. Credit: ITV News

For Raisa, we arrange a phone call with her son.

"We are alive - and we're in one piece," she tells him. "We've escaped from hell."

But her husband lies among the many dead in the town they left behind.

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