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Freed Ukraine towns show precarious healthcare

STORY: Doctor Oleg Marchenko's mobile clinic is a lifeline for Ukrainians who stayed in eastern villages when the Russians came.

This week, he and his team of volunteers saw dozens of patients in the once-occupied village of Vyshneva this week, not far from Kharkiv.

Russian strikes destroyed a large number of hospitals and clinics and many people have no local doctor.

High blood pressure is common. Some were too old or sick to leave during the occupation; the health of others who stayed is deteriorating.

"There were no medicines, there were no doctors who could offer help, plus the level of stress made everything worse."

Vladimir Kushnir was exposed to radiation in Chornobyl in 1986, when he helped tackle the fire after the world's worst nuclear accident.

Last year's occupation meant he missed his yearly checkup for cancer of the esophagus.

His medicine soon ran out. There might have been Russian doctors, he says, but he didn't try to find out.

"I just didn't want to see them," he says.

Ukraine's health ministry said Russia destroyed 174 medical facilities and significantly damaged more than 1,100 during its full-scale invasion.

Many have since been restored, it said. But the World Health Organization estimates it could cost more than $15 billion to completely repair the system.

Moscow denies its forces have targeted civilians or committed war crimes.

In Vyshneva, the Russians distributed medicines only to those who welcomed them, according to Tetiana Cherednichenko.

"Among them, there were even good male nurses and I asked them for medicines for my granddaughter who has a disability. I even asked the commander for medicines, and they never gave us any."

Russia's defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As more people return to liberated areas, skeleton staff and volunteers will struggle to meet needs.

Michelle Bachelet, the top UN human rights official, said last month Russia may have committed war crimes by killing civilians and destroying hospitals in its pounding of Ukrainian cities.