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KRAMATORSK, Ukraine — No one was coming to rescue Arif Bahirov.

After months of fierce fighting for control of the Luhansk region, a withering Russian assault on what remained of battered Ukrainian military positions threatened to cut off one of the last escape routes from Bahirov’s nearly surrounded hometown of Severodonetsk. Carrying only a small backpack, he began a perilous 50-mile journey by bicycle.

Bahirov, 45, who worked in public relations, knew this “road of life” well from working for months as a volunteer helping to evacuate hundreds of residents of Luhansk, a sprawling region in Ukraine’s east bordering Russia. He had seen plenty of Russian missile attacks targeting cars and trucks out here, but now as he pedaled, he clung to one thought: “No one would shoot a man on a bicycle.”