Last month, Dmytro Kuzubov put on headphones and walked around Kharkiv for hours. He feels that war will start soon and he wants to visit some of his favorite places. Kharkiv is his hometown: a vibrant, youthful city of nearly 1.5 million people immersed in academia, art and literature.
The attacks began a few days later. Unable to control the city, Russia resorted to destroying it. As in Syria and Chechnya, Russia aimed to demoralize the inhabitants of the city with overwhelming and indiscriminate fire. It is following a similar scheme in other Ukrainian cities, such as Mariupol and Mykolaiv.
“The most horrible thing was the jet whistle. I will remember them for the rest of my life,” said Kuzubov, who fled Kharkiv, along with hundreds of thousands of others.
This is a kindergarten classroom.
This is someone’s living room.
Pavel Dorogoy / Associated Press
And this is the site of the Old Hem, a popular pub in the basement of the building, where a statue of Ernest Hemingway greets patrons at the front.
“It’s one of my favorite places. “It’s a wonderful place, and I’m sad that it’s gone,” said Alex Sedov, a third-generation Kharkivite.
Russia has attacked Kharkiv with artillery, rockets, cluster munitions and guided missiles for at least 13 different days, a recent, relentless assault on the city at night. Most of Kharkiv’s inhabitants are Russian speakers, and many are ethnic Russian.
At least 500 civilians were killed, according to the city emergency services agency. The real number is likely higher, and rescuers continue to dig through the rubble.
Source: East View Geospatial (base map data)
“Kharkiv has not been completely destroyed, but we hear continuous shelling, constant bombardment,” said Natalka Zubar, a 57-year-old IT expert who remains in the city. “It’s a regular place of aerial terrorism.”
The city is packed with historic sites, home to 24 universities and about 200,000 students and professors, Ms. Zubar said. The main building of Kharkiv National University is still standing but has been damaged by explosions nearby.
The window of one of the university’s main buildings was blown out.
The economic department was hit directly.
Oleksandr Lapshyn / Reuters
And the university gym was demolished.
“You will see a lot of young people on the street; Maria Avdeeva, a security and disinformation expert. “Imagine tomorrow, life in Kharkiv is back to normal. Where will they live? Where will they go to college? ”
For Avdeeva and other lifelong residents, the destruction of the city was incomprehensible. She is still in Kharkiv, record its destruction. Last weekend, she walked around looking for stores that still sold food.
“It’s Saturday, and you’d normally think: Go to a store, go to a coffee shop. What would Saturday be like,” she said. “Now there’s nothing of that sort.”
On March 1, a missile hit the front of the Kharkiv regional government building, a monumental structure in the city’s main square that blew the Ukrainian flag from the roof. its. The education ministry, the finance ministry – “almost everything related to the operation of the Kharkiv region” – have offices in this building, Avdeeva said.
Not only is the building important, it has meaning.
“It is the symbol of Kharkiv, and everyone who comes to Kharkiv takes pictures here. It is impossible that you come to Kharkiv without noticing this building,” Avdeeva said.
The square next door was also heavily damaged during the strike. Originally named after the founder of the Soviet secret service, the square was renamed Freedom Square after Ukraine gained independence in 1991.
“They are destroying our historical and architectural heritage. They want to destroy everything, they want to demoralize people,” said Kuzubov.
A week before the invasion, Mr. Kuzubov and his friends went to see the movie “Rhino” by Oleh Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker, at the newly opened Nikolsky Shopping Center.
At about 10:30 p.m. on March 9, a rocket crashed through the roof, leaving debris and broken glass everywhere inside.
This is the mall now.
This is an electric vehicle depot.
Sergey Bobok / Agence France-Presse – Getty Images
This is a school.
Several Russian air strikes in the opening days of the invasion targeted military targets. Since then, they have lived indiscriminately. Hundreds of apartment buildings were attacked, including one in Saltivka, a residential area on the outskirts of Kharkiv.
“They are maximizing terror. Mrs. Zubar said. “But we’d rather die fighting for the city than leave.”