Russia’s Missiles Keep Missing and Other Lessons From My Ukraine Hospital Bed

Last month, I spent eight days in hospital in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhya, about 20 miles north of the front line, suffering from broken ribs and a punctured lung. This might sound dramatic and admirable if it was the result of the war; but I am afraid that I simply slipped and fell.

This is not a research technique I would recommend, but it did provide an unusual vantage point from which to view the conflict. My enforced stay offered the chance to observe the Russian air campaign against one Ukrainian city, and to have long conversations with nurses and fellow patients.

By way of background, Zaporizhzhya before the war was estimated to have a population of 710,000, roughly equal to Leeds. It was a huge Soviet industrial centre, producing among other things the famous (or for those who have driven in it, infamous) Zaporozhets car. Its main street is reputedly the longest in the former USSR, and is lined with ponderous but handsome buildings. The population is mainly Russian-speaking, and until 2014 voted repeatedly for pro-Russian presidential and parliamentary candidates. Most of the province that bears its name is now under Russian occupation. Failing air campaign

Was I scared to spend eight days trapped in a hospital bed under bombardment? Not a bit. Did this reflect courage on my part? No, because nobody in Municipal Hospital No 5 was scared, from the nurses and the cleaning ladies to the grandmother sewing in the next room. In a year of intermittent missile attacks, they had become good at risk assessment, and the risk of being hit was small. The level of destruction is different in Bakhmut, as it was during the siege of Mariupol last year and to a lesser extent in the towns north of Kyiv; but these have been prolonged ground battles, with massive use of artillery. In the cities of Kyiv, Dnipro and Zaporizhzhya, individual buildings have been hit, but there is no general destruction and life proceeds more or less normally.

Read the full piece in the Sunday Times.

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