Severodonetsk: Ukrainian man cycles from besieged city, dodging Russian shells

By Yaroslav Lukov
BBC News

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Arif Bagirov and his bikeImage source, Arif Bagirov/Facebook
Image caption,
"As soon as the opportunity arises, all I want to do is help my home town again," says Arif Bagirov

A Ukrainian man managed to flee unhurt the heavily-bombed eastern city of Severodonetsk by cycling, dodging Russian shells and warplanes.

Speaking to BBC Newshour, Arif Bagirov, 45, said it was his "craziest journey".

"There was a lot of firing, and at least two air strikes near me," he said, recounting his 70km (43-mile) bike ride to the city of Bakhmut.

The editor and blogger said he knew if one shell landed close then most likely the Russians would not hit there again.

Using those tactics, he reached Bakhmut unhurt.

"There were holes on the road, everything there was smashed up, including cars," Mr Bagirov said.

"And there was a lot of debris all over the place. It's a frontline road, after all. Thank God, there were no corpses - but you could tell that people have died there."

Mr Bagirov said it was easier to avoid Russian warplanes, because he could hear them coming from a distance.

"I found a ditch to lie in, and that's where I laid until they had gone past."

Image source, Serhiy Haidai/Luhansk OVA
Image caption,
The road from Severodonetsk to Bakhmut has been bombed out by Russian forces

He said it was a big relief when he finally arrived in Bakhmut, a city under Ukrainian control further west.

"When I was riding my bike I didn't really feel fear so much, it was more a sense of anger: 'This is my land, this is my country! And I will complete this journey whether you like it or not!'"

He says this feeling kept him going, it was almost like a "sporting anger, a positive anger".

"It was definitely my craziest journey on a bike," added Mr Bagirov, an experienced cyclist.

"I had covered such distances loads of times before - but not in such circumstances."

As for his plans for the future, he said simply: "I don't know at the moment. I'm just on the way to [the capital] Kyiv, and once I get there I will get a good rest."

But he added: "As soon as the opportunity arises, all I want to do is help my home town again."

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