KYIV, Ukraine — Russian troops insisted that their real target is the US, not Ukraine, after they opened fire on a Ukrainian man trying to flee his war-torn town, the traumatized resident told The Post.
“We’re not at war with Ukraine and Ukrainians, but at war with the USA inside Ukraine,” 55-year-old Igor Sitalo said Russian soldiers told him after they shot at him.
Sitalo was fleeing his hometown of Hostomel, a city of 16,000, with his German shepherd, Ralph, on Sunday when a bullet struck his hand, grazed his head — and killed his canine companion.
“A doctor tried to save him,” Sitalo told The Post between sobs at a medical tent near Kyiv.
“But he passed. He would have been eight years old this month.”
After the invading soldiers confronted Sitalo, an aviation engineer, at the scene and checked his identification documents, they apparently tried to console him by explaining their real enemy is the US.
Despite the close call, Sitalo — who had bloody bandages wrapped around his head and left arm — said his friends in Russia don’t believe that soldiers from their country are really committing such atrocities.
He sent them photos of his bullet wounds but “still, they do not believe me,” he said bitterly.
“They do not believe I am injured; they do not believe Russians are doing these things,” he continued.
“In a post in one of our aviation groups on Facebook, I wrote, ‘Brother Russians, what the f–k are you doing? Why are you doing this?’”
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The engineer, who works for US tech companies, managed to drive his bullet-riddled car to the town of Vorzel, where he waited days for a safe evacuation passage to emerge Wednesday.
He still has no idea how he’ll reach his wife and children and is heartbroken over the death of his dog, he said.
Sitalo is now waiting at a “transition point” with hundreds of other evacuees in a muddy field in Bilohorodka, a small village around 14 miles west of Kyiv.
On Wednesday, convoys brought around 800 civilians, mainly from the hard-hit towns of Irpin, Bucha, Vorzel and Hostomel.
Here, the fleeing Ukrainians can receive medical care and food and take shelter amid frigid weather while planning where to go next.
Many of them had been hiding in bunkers for more than a week without electricity, heating, food and medicines as their homes were bombed from above.
At the site, a young mother also cradled her newborn after giving birth amid attacks in Vorzel last week. She said she was forced to leave her two older children behind with relatives.
Asked when she’ll see them again, she burst into tears and told The Post, “Soon. Soon.”
Others seeking help at the site included teenagers and disabled people, some desperately hoping to reunite with relatives.
“People there have been subjected to devastating battles in the streets,” Kyiv Oblast Governor Oleksiy Kuleba said.
“There are many victims, but at this stage, we cannot give any accurate statistics, but this moment is a great tragedy.”