Children’s Cancer Hospital in Chernihiv, Ukraine, is in Putin’s new attack route

CHERNIHIV, Ukraine — For many years, Ukraine have been dealing with Russian Invasion and prepare for an invasion on its Eastern flank, where the two nations share more than 1,000 miles of a sometimes disputed border. But the recent relationship between President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart opened up the terrifying possibility of a new line of attack.

Belarus’ southern border is less than three hours’ drive from Kyiv, the economic and political capital of Ukraine.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had always had a difficult relationship with Putin, until Moscow rescued him from a calculated popular revolution last year. By repaying the favor, Lukashenko registered the closest integration between the two countries since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

“Russian tanks can get here in less than an hour.”

Ukraine has come to believe that the hackers behind a major cyber attack launched this month are affiliated with Belarusian intelligence on behalf of Moscow. Cooperation was even closer on Wednesday when Russian troops landed in Belarus to hold joint drills against Ukraine near the southern border.

Kyiv is currently effectively surrounded by hostile forces.

Perhaps the most obvious route into Ukraine from the north is via Chernihiv, 40 miles from the border, a spectacular city that has played a pivotal role in previous conflicts. It was captured by the Nazis in September 1941 when Hitler ordered the Wehrmacht to move east. The Red Army regained it in a brutal battle two years later. “More than 70% of the architecture of our city was destroyed in the battles of the Second World War,” explains Stanislav Ivaschenko to The Daily Beast as we tour the amazing architectural ruins. beautiful city of a city that was founded in the ninth century and now has a population of 285,000.

Current residents fear that they are once again on the cusp of history.

“Russian tanks can get here in less than an hour,” said Serhii Zasimenko, manager of a children’s cancer ward in the city. “The news means one thing: We must prepare for the fight and evacuate children with cancer from our clinic.”

Zasimenko, 37, is also a volunteer in the Territorial Self-Defense Forces, which train civilians to support the military if the country is attacked. The unit in Chernihiv has about 4,000 local volunteers, who had their last military training a few months ago.

Currently, his main concern is how to evacuate 29 children with cancer from the hematology department of the Chernihiv regional hospital, “in the event of an attack by Putin”. He couldn’t bear to question the parents of sick children. “They have a war of their own,” he said.

Of course, most of the kids were oblivious to the news swirling through Ukraine. On Tuesday, there were reports of Canada deploying special forces to defend Ukraine, Britain sending anti-tank weapons and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken flying to Kyiv for final talks.

In this area, 4-year-old Varia Tishenko, diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, rode his new tricycle along the hospital corridors, waving to adults. Like all the kids receiving chemotherapy in the ward, Tishenko was bald under his little cap. Her face is covered with a mask but you can tell from her eyes that she is smiling.

“We have no doubt that the border is a war zone that could explode at any moment.”

The tricycle is a gift from the program “We make dreams come true”. Another patient, 16-year-old Nika Pushenko, asked for a ring. Her dream is to one day have a wedding.

Zasimenko feels a responsibility to keep that hope alive.

With his dog Monia beside him, he pointed to a map of the area, thinking in his mind: “Plan A would be to move the kids to the hematology hospital in Kyiv, but in case our army blows it up bridges over Desna, we’ll have to drive around in Kanev’s direction,” he told The Daily Beast. “We have the sterile transport we need for our little patients, but if there are no bridges left, we will ask Kyiv volunteers to bring rafts so we can cross the river.”

Zasimenko was 29 years old when the war began in the Donbas. He traveled east as a volunteer, losing a good friend to a landmine blast in October 2014. The war mellowed him. “Neither me nor little Varya can influence Putin’s geopolitical decisions; but I hope that we manage to save the future, so that the dreams of the children at our hospital come true. ”

One thing Ukrainian civilians have learned in their nearly eight years of constant conflict with Russian-backed forces is how to organize volunteer communities. Ordinary civilians have taken on extraordinary responsibilities since the very beginning.

Olga Palkova-Svirchevska, a bank manager, saw a giant military plane land at an abandoned Soviet airport outside her apartment complex in March 2014. Russians walk down the steps. ladder on an overgrown grass runway.

“On that day I became an army volunteer. My friends and I raised money and brought everything our soldiers asked for. We threw bags of food or medicine over the fences around military bases; we have troops on the ground, pilots are stationed in Chernihiv — we even help submarines that have been delivered to Chernihiv from occupied Crimea,” she told The Daily Beast.

The area that once slept peacefully has changed rapidly since then. The city’s own airport is now teeming with life, with an aviation school and pilots in operation. “Now we hear the sounds of big and small planes landing all the time. Thanks to Putin, we have a professional army, police and border guards. There are anti-tank trenches along our border, which we didn’t have before the war.”

People are trained to act more. “We lived for decades without knowing where the border between Belarus and Ukraine was,” she said. “But since 2014, we have no doubt that the border is a war zone that could explode at any moment.”

Belarusian leader Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, declared on Monday that Ukraine was turning belligerent, accusing the country of continuing to “build up the National Guard from nationalists. This is even worse than the NATO army and it’s all close to our state border. ”

Many here fear Moscow might justify an attack on the country by fabricating news about aggression on the Belarusian border. “Lukashenko is using Putin’s propaganda [to] thinks that there is a fascist regime that is ruling Ukraine,” Yevgeny Lunyak, a history professor at Nikolai Gogol University in Nezhensk, told The Daily Beast.

“Russian tanks will take between five and six hours to reach Kyiv from Belarus, if Putin decides to invade. But he should have realized what had happened: The now 20-year-old Ukrainians had grown up viewing him as an aggressor. They are ready to fight and defend the country,” said Lunyak, who has been a lieutenant in a tank division in the Donbas since 2014.” Tanks can go on any road, driving around blown bridges and ending on the left bank of the Dnieper in Kyiv. But a battle for Kyiv on the high right bank of the Dnieper would be devastating and claim the lives of thousands of Russian soldiers.”

The question is how much Putin wants to restore supremacy over Ukraine, as well as Belarus and the states of the former Soviet Union. Published by the Kremlin An article by Putin last summer described Russians and Ukrainians as one people, a “single whole”.

“The Slavs and other tribes across the vast territory — from Ladoga, Novgorod and Pskov to Kyiv and Chernigov [now known as Chernihiv] bound together by one language, which we now call Old Russian,” he wrote.

On the ground in Chernihov now, the Ukrainians are preparing for war day and night. They have no intention of being swallowed up by Putin’s “single whole”. Children’s Cancer Hospital in Chernihiv, Ukraine, is in Putin’s new attack route


ClareFora is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. ClareFora joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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