Haggard faces stare blankly from inside minivans ferrying survivors from towns and villages bludgeoned by Russian armor. Ukrainian ambulances carry the wounded and dead from the battlefield, sharing the road with rumbling tanks.
Detonations sound in the distance as lost souls adrift in this ghost city line up for giveaways of food and medicine.
“Soon, the shelling will come here,” predicts Serhii Barkov, 38, his left arm still bandaged from wounds sustained during Russian bombardment of his eastern Ukraine village, Studenok. “Once the shelling starts, you just run wherever your eyes can see,” he says, nervously dragging on a cigarette outside the hospital. “Things will get worse here in a few days. I need to leave.”
President Biden’s announcement this week that Washington was providing advanced rocket systems to Ukraine has bolstered some hopes for a battlefield turnaround. The Pentagon had previously sent more than 100 long-range howitzers.
The Kremlin said the arms transfers amount to “pouring fuel on the fire,” constituting a proxy war meant to weaken Russia.
But it is unclear to what extent, if any, that the slew of new weapons will disrupt the Russian onslaught.
“I wouldn’t say that’s a game-changer,” said Jeffrey Edmonds, an analyst at CNA, a research group based in Arlington, Va.
“I think the Russians will feel it. But it’s not going to suddenly reverse Russian gains,” added Edmonds, a former director for Russia on the White House National Security Council.
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