The front line is now approaching Mezhyhirya Park, which has become a symbol of the victory over the regime of the former President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych’s. The former residence of the fugitive president is located a few kilometers to the north of Kyiv, where Russian troops are advancing, and some of them are already ten kilometers away from Mezhyhirya.
Journalists of Slidstvo.Info have visited the park and have found out that in the first days of the war bombs and shells hit the park. We have seen these destructions with our own eyes and also have heard that Yanukovych, whose return has recently been discussed in Ukraine, is not expected here. Only in the shoes of prisoner.
There are currently no visitors in Mezhyhirya. Explosions can be heard from afar. The water surface of the Kyiv Sea, over which the Ukrainian military regularly shoots down enemy aircraft, is visible between the buildings. Yanukovych’s former residence has now become a de facto military facility. According to the Commandant of Mezhyhirya, Denis Tarakhkotelik, people from nearby villages and refugees from the places where fighting with the Russian occupiers is already taking place are hiding in local basements.
“There were days when we had up to 60 children taking shelter. Now there are several dozen people,” he said.
The fact that a full-scale war has broken out in the country was felt here immediately. At the very first night, the Russians dropped two cluster bombs on the territory.
“We were bombed by plane, all the mobile communications on the main tower were destroyed,” says Denis.
We go to the impact site. Felled trees are around there. The equipment of the tower is completely ruined, the mobile communication on the territory is really bad. The surrounding buildings have their windows broken.
“It’s a cluster bomb, so there are no traces of the projectile itself. They didn’t aim the tower to fall, they hit with cluster bombs just to destroy as much of the three operators’ equipment as possible and to cut off the communications. Thank God, everyone is alive,” he explains.
The second bomb hit the park area and cut the lawn near the pond where the swans rescued by the zoo volunteers live. Shrapnel has killed two swans – black and white. Feathers are still there, on the lawn next to the bomb trail.
In addition to the cluster bombs, Mezhyhirya was hit by a missile on the first day of the war.
“We were hit at 5:10 on the first day of the war,” says Denis.
The Russian plane shot the waterfront and hit the hangar area, where festivals of investigative journalists were held after the Revolution of Dignity. They were able to extinguish the hangar on their own.
There is a dog training center next to the hangar. There are several small dogs, cats and a raccoon named Rocky. Employees of the center say that they are working with dogs so that they should not be afraid of explosions, but the raccoon feels worried. In addition, they fear that they will run out of animal food by the end of the war.
On the second day of the war, a cat had come here and recently gave birth to three kittens. They were called Javelin, NLAW and Bayraktar.
But in general, they were ready for the Russian aggression in Mezhyhirya. Denis Tarahkotelik says he had known there would be a war.
“I have already been on duty every night from February 13–14. Mezhyhirya expected that to happen, we were ready. We have all the processes completely under control. People were all informed, the community was gathered repeatedly; we even talked about all our actions, so there was no “surprise” for us. The majority simply did not believe. Well, I knew for sure that there would be a war,” said the man.
He is wearing neither a helmet nor a bulletproof vest. He says he gave everything to the guys at the forefront.
“The guy in the trenches needed them more than I did. That’s why everything is okay.”
His son was in Mezhyhirya with Denis that day. He says he took the boy to breathe the fresh air after being in the shelter, because the park was relatively quiet.
The boy was wearing a helmet, and he was walking calmly in the park while his father was nearby.
In these conditions, Mezhyhirya is running like clockwork.
“Everything critical, namely that all the animals and birds are fed, that all processes of engineering are ensured; we even turned on the boilers yesterday for communications not to freeze because it was cold,” says the Commandant. The area is regularly cleaned and carefully guarded to prevent possible looting.
Now the ex-residence is fully self-sufficient and even helps others.
“We are helping everyone. We store all the products that volunteers brought us in our basements and refrigerators. Who needs it – we give them little by little, to effectively use everything we have. There is no problem in feeding people, I buy cigarettes whenever possible too,” says the commandant.
Animals from the local zoo also feel good. Denis says they have enough food. The first days of the explosions frightened the menagerie, but they got used to it, they almost do not react at all.
Yanukovych is not expected to return to Mezhyhirya. Yanukovych himself is ready to be accepted only as a prisoner who will appear in court. They are even ready to provide him with the security to make it happen.
“Everything will be a victory, we will fix everything. We will make it even better. We will rebuild everything,” says Denis. Suddenly he pays attention to the phone where the text has just come.
“Avia (danger of air strike – ed.). We are in a dangerous place, because this is where Russian planes take off. Let’s move, I’m responsible for your lives here,” said the commandant and escorted us out of the residence.