Antarctica horror: Ukrainian scientists left stranded after Putin wipes out hometown

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Kharkiv, the second biggest city in Ukraine, has been completely battered by Russia’s invasion. Airstrikes have caused carnage in the city, which is just 25 miles from the Russian border, with wrecked buildings and rubble strewn across the streets. Russian troops have not held back, with strikes hitting everything from schools and shops to a cathedral.

It is perhaps no surprise then that Yan Bakhmat, a geophysicist working at Ukraine’s only research facility in Antarctica, cannot return to his home city.

He is one of 12 residents at the Vernadsky station in Antarctica, which was originally set up by the British, but transferred to Ukraine in 1996.

Ukrainian scientists and support staff turn up at the research base every year to study climate change and the impact it has on animals. and plants.

Mr Bakhmat, who specialises in measuring the Earth’s magnetic field, told The Guardian: “It’s impossible to describe, you can only live through it when you are thousands of kilometres away from everything and everyone you know and love when you can’t influence anything.”

The pain is also felt by his colleague, Andrii Khytryi, an anesthesiologist and emergency medicine physician from Poltava in central Ukraine.

He said: “It’s really agonizing to be here unable to fight the occupation of my homeland.

“For some, it is close to unbearable. Sometimes the stress is so strong that I need to assist my colleagues with drugs to normalize the blood pressure or insomnia.”

Mr Khytryi is the expedition doctor and so is tasked with monitoring the physiological and mental condition of the members of the team.

The temperature at Vernadsky is reportedly close to 0C, with March towards the end of Antarctica’s summer.

More Ukrainians are scheduled to join the team too after a research vessel dubbed the Noosfera left the port of Odesa for the Antarctic at the end of January.

New members were also set to join up, but some researchers due for upcoming expeditions have got trapped in Ukraine amid the war.

They would have joined the twenty-sixth Ukrainian expedition to the base in Antarctica.

A press officer at Ukraine’s National Antarctic Scientific Center said: “Some of the team is locked in Kyiv and some of the team is locked in Kharkiv.”

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But when the team at Verdansky station will be able to return to their home country remains to be seen.

Earlier this month, the current team at the Vernadsky station recorded a video message addressed to their fellow countrymen.

They said: “Our hearts are filled with pain from what’s happening in our homeland.

“Unfortunately, we can’t join the soldiers, the territorial defence and volunteers now but we are doing everything we can to help our country.”

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