Kharkiv military barracks in preparation for “street war”

Asharq Al-Awsat monitors growing civilian displacement as Russian bombings escalate into Ukraine’s second largest city

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, experienced a long night of continuous and indiscriminate bombing Sunday night – amid preparations for a possible “street war” if the Russians were to try to attack the city again. or surround it.

As early as Sunday evening, Russian artillery began attacking most of the neighborhoods inhabited in Kharkiv, especially the eastern and northern areas, to which Ukrainian artillery responded equally. The exchange of shelling did not stop in the early hours of the morning; But its intensity calmed down somewhat, though the sounds of artillery were still audible on Monday.

Destruction in Kharkiv yesterday (Reuters)

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry says Russian forces are trying, unsuccessfully, to impose a siege on Kharkiv; But its defenders continue to resist.

Despite the intensity of the night bombing and its continuation until daylight, Ukrainian maintenance crews came out early to remove the effects of the destruction, which sometimes seemed absurd, in light of the bombardment of areas near the workplace of maintenance crews. when removing debris and scattered glass, or reconnecting intermittent electrical wires;

Only army and police forces hold the roads. There are no volunteers here to check the identities of passers-by or provide street protection, as is the case in other cities, including the capital, Kiev.

A volunteer collects what can be used from the rubble of bombed-out buildings in Kharkiv (Reuters)

Kharkiv, in fact, has been turned into a de facto military barracks with a section of the civilian population. Thousands of army personnel were deployed in city areas in preparation for the next step. In fact, passers-by in the city will not see clear military manifestations. The soldiers disappeared from sight. Only the checkpoints near some buildings indicate that additional elements are present at nearby points, waiting for Russian forces to enter and start a street fight to repel them.

It seems that the new Russian tactic of targeting and violently bombing areas in order to subdue them has frightened the people of Kharkiv more than in the past, as there is a growing exodus of citizens who had insisted to stay in the country until now. Theirs. city. The new situation is also exhausting trained soldiers and hampering civilian and military supply operations.

A soldier on the northern outskirts of Kharkiv yesterday (AFP)

The new Russian tactic represents a large-scale operation to spread terror ahead of the next intervention attempt, which could come after the end of control of the southeastern city of Mariupol. On the other hand, so far, the flow of civilian goods, and of course military supplies, continues in Kharkiv, which gives the impression that in exchange for the Russian military’s insistence on besieging and attacking the city, there is a Ukrainian will. to make him pay a high cost.

Scenes on the outskirts of the war

On a sidewalk in the heart of Kiev, a young girl begins to cry. She pulls her mother’s hand and tries to grab her father’s jacket. The sound of artillery shelling terrified the girl with the pink coat and red hat. Her father falls to his knees and hugs her and she starts crying. Her father tries to comfort her in a gentle voice, hugs her and caresses her back; Yet the girl continues to cry and the sound of gunfire does not cease to ring on everyone’s heads.

An elderly woman walks past a building that was bombed on the northern outskirts of Kharkiv yesterday (AFP)

Near the entrance of a subway station, two women are sitting, looking through piles of used clothes for necessary things. One of them looks homeless, with plastic bags with items, food and some utensils, while the other is dressed in luxury clothes and holds bags of the famous brand “Louis Vuitton” (may be fake). They leave room for doubts that this woman is not one of the homeless, and perhaps before the war she was well in life and with money and is now looking among certain clothes for relief and left on the sidewalk, for the needs of young children. years old.

A woman in skinny clothes finds what she wants. She puts her “loot” in a plastic bag, then stands up and takes a few steps away. She pulls a cigarette out of her pocket and lights it, leans on an iron ledge, and smokes gently. In the afternoon the temperature drops to minus 5, but the woman does not care much; Rather, she silently looks at what is around her, before finishing the cigarette and leaving her companion to continue her search among the piles of children’s clothes.

In the crowded store, a man approaches an ambulance team. The man approaches crawling. A man and a woman, dressed in red, look at her and ask for help. Confused men and women on how to get up. No one helps them. Everyone has a survival instinct. Citizens pass in front of doctors rushing and bypassing them. Only the doctor and the assistant doctor are trying to get the man to the nearest point; Where can they use wheeled slings.

At a help center, a man in his forties stands telling his two-eyed story. Those around him stop listening. They walk away from him, but he keeps looking at the wall opposite and telling his story. His hands are on his sides. Only his voice can now be heard throughout the underground center.

Not far away, but on the road, a taxi driver smiles when he finds a passenger. He fiercely negotiates the price. What he asks is 4 times more than the traditional price, then his smile expands when the husband agrees to pay the fee, as requested by the driver, but the husband says: “Do not rush the money, we will all die in this city. “The driver stops and spits on the ground, then swears and gets into his car.

An elderly woman stands in front of a shop, which has been turned into a simple service center for residents. She takes a paper cup from the ground and presents it to the young volunteer. The young man fills it with tea and returns it. The lady looks at the tea and asks for more sugar before taking the first sip. He finishes the quiet tea, throws the cup where he finds it and continues on his way.

In his empty shop, now dedicated to free bread delivery, a merchant refuses to take boxes from a food distributor: “These are aids and have prints in foreign languages, how do you want to sell them to me while I resell those inhabitants? ” He turns his back on the distributor and is busy cleaning a shelf without any items for sale.

At the Kharkiv Zoo, a number of young soldiers sit in the sun and smoke while leaving their rifles inside a nearby building. The animals in the park are left to their own devices, except for a few staff members who try to feed them. The night before the garden was bombed. One of the soldiers says he could not tell if any of the animals in the park had died. When asked: Is it possible to enter? He replies: “The park has been closed due to the bombing.”

A dog seeks its owner

Elsewhere in Kharkov, a German Shepherd dog runs; In black, she retains her noble and high running form, hiding her tragedy behind her magnificent form. He enters the Kharkiv Vokzal train station, then lets out his scream inside, his sad voice echoing from the walls. You need to know this breed in advance, to know if this dog really “seeks evil” and how peaceful it will be in these moments of heavy bombing of Kharkiv and its suburbs.

Security guards pull the dog out of the large station building and he runs back outside the station. The sidewalk smells here. There it stops near the pedestrians. He smells the food a passerby has offered him, but he refuses. This time, run back to the road away from the station. There is no doubt that the dog is looking for its owners, who abandoned him at the time of his escape from Kharkiv.

It’s the third day I encounter this dog wandering in search of someone lost, and he never stops coming back to the train station. Here, apparently, the smell of his friends disappeared. He spends hours there and then disappears, only to return at night, sometimes in the early hours of the morning, wandering as he pleases before lifting the curfew.

This breed of dog is famous for its loyalty to its human owners and the dog usually awaits the approval of its owner in case a stranger offers him food and some of them do not eat their food if the owner is not nearby. him. Dogs fall asleep near their owners and their preferred place to sleep is either under their owner’s feet or in a corner that reveals entrances to rooms, especially children’s rooms, to protect them and protect them. woke up quickly in case someone tries to sneak in and hurt. homeowners. And now this black dog here in Kharkiv runs around looking for his mission in life: for the owners he has lost without knowing why.

The dog does not pay attention to the numerous cats scattered on the sidewalks or the edges of buildings, watching from the tired place the dog moving here and there, and the passing of people looking for ways to escape the sounds of bombing and war. actions. The feeling of losing cats is less severe than that of dogs, but they may think that their owners will come back at any moment and hold and provide them with food, and waiting, they enjoy watching and moving slowly to one side. to the other.

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