The disturbing images of destruction, suffering and death from the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv do not want to end. In his war against Ukraine, Putin targeted the city of over a million inhabitants on the border with Russia.
Especially on social media, on Twitter and Telegram, the victims of the bloodthirsty attacks share the suffering and chaos that bombs and war have left in their hometown. On Wednesday, the local police and secret service headquarters were partially destroyed.
Putin now seems to have targeted civilians. “We are in the tough phase of this war, where Russia is trying to use its firepower to take the cities that it was previously unable to take with rapid operations,” Russia expert Gustav Gressel told the editorial network Germany (RND). Now Russia wants to use “targeted shelling of housing developments to weaken the morale of the population and the troops lying there”. For Gressel, who devotes his work to military strategies, international relations, Russia and Eastern Europe, Kharkiv is currently repeating what the world observed years ago in Aleppo, Syria: heavy military strikes against civilian facilities such as kindergartens, schools and hospitals.
<h3>”Now they come flying”</h3>
Until a few days ago, 1.5 million people lived in Kharkiv. Meanwhile, those who stayed are holed up to protect themselves from Russian artillery shells and bombs. Just like Elena. She flees night after night with her children to the makeshift basement of her house. There a few provisions, a toilet, blankets and mattresses for the little sleep that mother and children get in Kharkiv these nights. “Now it’s 10:25 p.m. here, the planes are flying over Kharkov and dropping the bombs,” says Elena’s mother into the camera. She radiates calm, her children haven’t lost their smiles yet.
Zhanna stayed in Kharkiv with her husband, her mother, mother-in-law and her two children fled a few days ago. On the train to get out of the war zone quickly. In a video she sent to the RND, thunder rumbles can be heard. They are not planes, she assures in the video, what you hear are rockets. “Now they come flying.”
Above all, Nexta’s Twitter and Telegram presence shares information from the heavily contested areas of Ukraine. Several media come together under Nexta. In 2015, Pole Szjapan Puzila launched Nexta on YouTube, originally as a music channel. At that time he was 17 years old. The platform has been viewed as oppositional from the start. Nexta now employs a multi-person editorial team in Warsaw. Many of the names of the editorial staff are not known for security reasons.
The pictures and videos that Nexta distributed from Kharkiv on Wednesday morning showed destroyed buildings, rescue operations by the fire brigade, and crowds of people fleeing. And nothing will change in the next few days either. Only the place of destruction will be different after Kharkiv is completely destroyed. What has happened to Kharkiv in the past few days at the hands of Putin’s army from Russia will “unfortunately await the whole of Ukraine,” says expert Gressel.
Ukraine has urged Russia to cease fire in eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv and Sumy regions to evacuate civilians. The Russian side is asked to “immediately end its hostilities in Kharkiv and Sumy so that we can arrange for the evacuation of the civilian population, including foreign students, to safer Ukrainian cities,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday evening. Students from India, Pakistan, China and other countries who have not been able to flee because of Russian rocket attacks on residential areas are still staying there, it said. Russia has vehemently denied attacking civilians.
<h3>2000 civilian casualties</h3>
The Russian attack also continued on other fronts, including in Odessa and Mariupol. Mayor Vadym Boychenko told the Interfax news agency that Mariupol was being shelled incessantly. “We can’t even get the wounded off the streets, out of their houses and apartments.” In Chernihiv in the north, a hospital was hit by two rockets, the Ukrainian news agency Unian reported. A Russian military convoy more than 60 kilometers long was also slowly advancing on the capital Kyiv.
According to the UN, 874,000 people have fled Ukraine. On Wednesday, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service reported that more than 2,000 civilians had been killed since the war of aggression began. Up to 7000 Russian soldiers are according to information imprisoned or fallen in Ukraine.