“In Kyiv, violent explosions could be heard and I was standing with my children in front of the closed roller door of an underground car park. They didn’t want to let us in. A representative of the household claimed that the garage was accidentally marked on the map as a shelter, only cars were parked there,” says Viktoria Lohvynenko.

During the massive Russian missile attack on Ukraine on October 10, the woman finally had to call for help. “The police were shocked too,” she recalls. After the officers arrived, they and their children were allowed into the underground car park.

But this situation was repeated during further air raids. “I had to call the police five times and write complaints. There was always an argument, but then we were allowed into the garage. Now the police are no longer answering our calls and we are no longer allowed in there,” complains Viktoria, adding that there are no alternatives in the vicinity of her house.

A gas line ran through the basement of their block of flats, and other rooms designated as air-raid shelters housed a hairdressing salon, pet shop and office, which remained closed during the air raids.

In recent weeks, many regions of Ukraine have again been increasingly hit by missiles and drones from the Russian army targeting civilian infrastructure. According to the Mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, several rockets aimed at Kyiv were recently intercepted. He keeps calling on people to go to shelters in the event of an air raid.

Oleh Stovolos, head of the capital’s civil protection department, says that today Kyiv has around 4,500 shelters, compared to around 500 in 2014. These are cellars, basements of buildings, subway stations, underground car parks and underpasses that have been checked accordingly. In addition, the authorities have issued a map with their locations in case of an emergency. Although there are now more shelters in Kyiv, residents complain that not all of them are open to them.

The local authorities in Kyiv admit that there are problems accessing some of the shelters. Your representative, Roman Tkatschuk, says that this primarily applies to objects that are privately owned. “We have been constantly checking the shelters since February. We even removed locks and we will continue to do so,” he assures. If a shelter is not accessible, Tkachuk recommends that residents of Kiev contact the relevant contact center in the capital.

He assures that if those responsible for the premises do not fulfill their obligations, the authorities will contact the public prosecutor’s office. “Several legal proceedings are already underway against owners who do not consider it necessary to implement all civil protection measures. This is currently considered an administrative offence, but I think criminal liability for violations of civil protection should be introduced, ”said Tkatschuk.

As the experience of the interviewees at DW shows, problems with access to shelters are not limited to private buildings. During the first months of the widespread war, the shelters of the schools were the most important places of refuge for the people. But that all changed when classes resumed.

Rocket fire in Kyiv on October 10 caught Marina Lypovetska on her way to work. “Rockets flew, there was a whistle and I saw a school. I ran there and other people followed me. A man opened the door and immediately slammed it in front of us. He just said he could only let people in with kids. So we had to stay outside,” the woman recalls. She says that anyone can go into a shelter at another school near her home.

The Kiev city administration says that the shelters for students and staff have been equipped with the resumption of classes. “There are school desks, school books and the children’s personal belongings. You are not allowed to let strangers in there,” explains Roman Tkatschuk and recommends that the population seek out other shelters. At the same time, however, he admits that there are neighborhoods in Kyiv where school shelters are the only way to find shelter.

David Surnajyan lives in such a district. Even before the Russian invasion began, he had thought that he would be able to protect himself in a school across from his home. Although it is marked on the map as a shelter, the school has never been opened to all residents. The rooms were not prepared accordingly, it was said to justify. “The shelters are now equipped for children, but even before that we were not allowed in for six months during the war. Our complaints to the contact center were ignored,” complains Surnajyan.

He points out that the students are only there part of the day and suggests letting residents of the surrounding houses into the shelters at other times of the day. “We’re used to just staying at home when there’s an air raid, but many of us would rather be in a shelter,” says the man.

Meanwhile, Oleh Stowolos from civil protection warns against staying in the apartment during an air raid. “The two-wall rule (in case of an air raid, you have to hide in the room separated by at least two walls from the facade of the house – editor’s note) should only be applied when you are at home from the shelling is surprised. Statistics show that many people have been rescued from basements of hit buildings. However, as the most recent case in Kyiv shows, there is nothing left of the four floors of a house. There were five dead, all of whom were in their homes at the time of the impact,” says Stowolos.

Adaptation from the Russian: Markian Ostapchuk

Author: Anastasia Shepeleva

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The original of this post “Not for everyone?” comes from Deutsche Welle.