TIME is running out for the residents of a Ukrainian ghost town facing the fury of the Russian assault.
Nadiezhda and her husband Yurii live in a cellar and cook in the courtyard where they buried a neighbor killed by a blitz.
They have no electricity, gas or running water.
Their building has a ten-meter hole in its shell-torn facade.
But they are determined to stay.
And they barely flinch amid the howl of incoming shells, which began on the second day of the war.
About 100,000 people have fled Lysychansk, the zombie twin city of Severodonetsk.
There are between 10,000 and 20,000 left.
Only duty and desperation keep them there.
Nadiezhda, 61, and Yurii are among the last six residents of a five-storey Soviet block that was once home to 100 people.
They live on donations from the volunteers who lead the gauntlet of Russian artillery surrounding the city on three sides.
The townspeople charge their phones on their soldiers’ generators, but only to use them as torches as there is no mobile signal in the town.
All shops are closed.
All the work cars are gone.
Only the mangled wreckage of blown up vehicles litters the empty streets.
Some vehicles, stripped of windows and wheels, were dragged into makeshift roadblocks.
But the checkpoints are mostly unmanned because there are so few people left.
Three bridges that connected Lysychansk to Severodonetsk were all destroyed.
“We are almost completely cut off. It’s almost as bad as Mariupol,” Nadiezhda said, referring to the southern port siege that left up to 20,000 dead.
Near her home, the ruins of the city’s Palace of Culture were smoldering.
In a garden square, the tails of two Russian rockets came out of the ground.
Nadiezhdah added: “My parents met in this square. I have lived here all my life. My heart is bleeding but where can I go?
Brussels boosts hope for a European state
THE European Commission yesterday backed Ukraine’s application for EU candidate status.
The war-torn nation could now be added to the countries vying for membership as early as next week.
All 27 EU leaders must accept the candidacy.
The French, German and Italian leaders gave their support during a trip to Kyiv on Thursday.
Yesterday, the European Commission officially backed the bid.
Chief Ursula von der Leyen wore a jacket in the colors of Ukraine and said: “We all know that Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective. We want them to live with us for the European dream.
Ukrainian President Zelensky hailed the decision as “a first step on the road to EU membership which will certainly bring our victory closer.”
He thanked Ms von der Leyen for the Commission’s “historic decision” and said he expected a positive outcome at the June 23-24 summit.
Russia has accused the West of manipulating Ukraine with promises of integration.
Those who remain are mostly poor and lonely.
The Sun saw hunched old ladies pulling carts over shards of glass as artillery thundered.
Some don’t seem to care whether they live in Ukraine or Russia.
Some want Putin to win.
Police chief Oleh Hryhorov said around 35 people had recently been arrested for collaborating with Russian forces.
For those who want to leave, the only way out is the police or humanitarian convoys.
Hryhorov added: “Even if they have a car, there is no gasoline for sale.”
About 30 to 40 people brave the road each day.
Eight-month-pregnant Karina, her husband, mother and sister paid someone £400 to drive them to safety only for them to disappear with their money.
The family eventually left with the help of Christian charity Word Of Life.
Volunteer Jerry O’Reilly ignored the risks, saying: “I grew up in Belfast. If it’s the day that God has assigned to me, then I don’t mind if it’s going to happen.
At least four people were killed and seven others injured in airstrikes after they left.
Nadiezda gave us her son’s cell phone number and said, “Please tell him we’re still alive. We will survive. I am an optimist. But only God knows how it will end.
Russian missile supplier is bombed
VLADIMIR Putin suffered another naval embarrassment as a Russian boat carrying air defense systems to Snake Island was destroyed by the Ukrainian Navy yesterday.
He said the Vasily Bekh was used to transport ammunition, weapons and personnel to the island, which is vital for protecting the sea lanes out of the key port of Odessa.
Snake Island, 20 miles off the coast, was where Ukrainian defenders responded to demands for surrender, saying, “Russian warship, fuck you.”
The message was broadcast on ship-to-shore radios and became an instant rallying cry for the resistance.
That warship, the 12,490-ton guided-missile cruiser Moskva, was later sunk on April 14.
It was reportedly hit by a pair of Ukrainian-made Neptune cruise missiles, resulting in heavy loss of life.
Dozens more were thought to have perished when the Vasily Bekh was hit in the Black Sea yesterday.
Moscow declined to confirm the incident.