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Virtual tours of Kyiv lay bare devastating aftermath of Russian assault

Ukraine wants the world to see the true cost of Russia’s brutal invasion. And there’s a digital tool which is perfect for that.

Kyiv’s city administration has set up virtual tours of the war zone, allowing users to roam around war-torn streets and shelled buildings.

On Kyiv’s city tourist portal, visitors can see everything from destroyed buildings on the outskirts of the city, to shelled homes in the town of Bucha, where hundreds of Ukrainian civilians were murdered as Russian forces beat a retreat in spring.

The aim of the initiative is to “preserve the cultural and tourist heritage of [Kyiv],” said Kyiv’s Deputy Mayor Petro Olenych, who’s also in charge of the digital transformation of the city.

“It was during the war that the need for such technology became even more acute, as it made it possible to record the destruction caused by Russian aggression. From the first day of the war, we began to accumulate interactive content on our tourist and cultural hub,” he said.

Nine locations in different districts of Kyiv are available to view. The hub has been visited by more than 100,000 users in 30 different countries, according to the deputy mayor.

The project is part of a wider push to repurpose everyday technology for a city that is facing an ongoing struggle, despite Russia’s new focus on taking the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine. Kyiv Digital, a smartphone app that people used to pay their utility bills and buy metro tickets, has been reinvented to inform people about upcoming air alarms and provide Wi-Fi in bomb shelters.

Other digital initiatives across Ukraine, such as the Virtual Museum of War Memory, also share images of “the terrible reality” of the war in cities such as Irpin.

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