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A getaway driver from Ukraine who was forced to escape his home and livelihood has shared the shocking moment troops with machine guns stormed across his land.
Oleksii Savin dedicated 14 years of his life to building his own fruit and vegetable business, with his produce home-grown on his five-hectare plot of land in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine.
But when Russian troops descended on his community, Savin was forced to flee for his life.
When the war broke out in early 2022, Savin’s area was among the first to be raided by Vladimir Putin’s army as they crossed the border into Ukraine.
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Express US, Savin described leaving his former life behind and becoming a getaway driver for evacuations on the frontline.
The brave Ukrainian was not deterred from helping his country in any way he could, and on one occassion shepherded 11 people in a tiny car through Russian checkpoints, including an 80-year-old veteran who served in the 2014 conflict who was being hunted by aggressor.
Recalling the beginning of Russia’s bloody invasion, Savin said: “It was a shock. At 5am I heard a crazy roar of airplanes, and everything was happening where I lived.”
Acting quickly, he rushed to check on his 90-year-old mother-in-law as the Russian’s descended on them.
Wasting no time in saving his family friends, he met with 20 other local men to plan an evacuation of the town.
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Savin travelled to in Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia with his elderly mother-in-law, and began helping the Red Cross with evacuations and delivering humanitarian aid to the frontline.
Describing his life living under Russian occupation, he said: “It was scary, especially in situations when I was driving and saw a column of Russian vehicles with machine guns firing. I didn’t know what to do.
“I intuitively pulled into the right lane and turned off the lights. I was afraid as I did not know what would happen when those creatures were driving through. I did not know whether I would live or die.
“Another time, an armoured vehicle with a large caliber machine gun entered into my garden. In they end, they just asked about my address, but I felt something terrible inside at the time. I did not know what their intentions would be.”
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Savin left Zaporizhzhia after his mother-in-law died of natural causes and is now living elsewhere and free of Russian control.
However, he still hears rumours about the fate of his former home.
Savin said: “Every day, Russian troops have been inspecting the settlements, cities and villages looking for veterans and soldiers who fought for Ukraine in 2014. They would hide in homes and there were rumours that they found a few…but they never came out, they disappeared.”
Being forced to leave his home and business behind, Savin is still concerned about the produce on his land, which is close to the Nova Kakhovka dam which collapsed earlier this month, sparking even more evacuations.
Savin is lucky that his produce was not completely destroyed by the floodwaters, but he is unable to retrieve it, saying Russian-regime supporting locals have threatened to notify soldiers if he returns to the area.
He said: “We have to expel all of those creatures. While they are here, the war won’t end.”
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