The Ukrainian army secures Kharkiv, the second largest city, and advances to the Russian border

After securing territory around the capital, Kyiv, in late March, Ukrainian forces began driving Russian soldiers out of towns further east. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on Sunday released a video showing troops from a territorial defense unit of the Kharkiv region retaking control of a section of the state border with Russia.

Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, has been one of the worst-hit population centers since the start of the full-scale invasion of Russia on February 24.

“Mr President, we have arrived at the border of the Russian occupiers,” announced a Ukrainian officer in the video, who was standing with his men at a border post that separated Ukrainian from Russian territory.

Video of the Territorial Defense Forces of the Kharkiv region on the Russian border.

The next day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy responded in his own video address: “Guys, Kharkiv. Many thanks to the 227th Battalion and to the 127th Territorial Defense Brigade. My gratitude to you knows no bounds.”

Although these are significant gains for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, they have yet to secure the entire Kharkiv region. Although the Russian army is withdrawing from the areas around the city, it continues to defend positions in the areas around the Izyum transport hub in the east of the province.

A map from the Institute for the Study of War shows that while Ukrainian forces have managed to push back Russian troops in some areas, large parts of Ukraine remain under Russian occupation.

Tuesday morning brought no reports of further damage in the city of Kharkov itself, but the Kharkov regional administration said Russian missiles had struck the northeastern suburb of Tsyrkuny overnight, injuring two residents and killing a 40-year-old man.

Still, Ukraine’s success in pushing the occupiers farther from the city has allowed some aspects of normal daily life to return. On Monday, Kharkiv-born Ukrainian poet Serhiy Zhadan posted an update on his Facebook page.

“The city is quickly restoring its pace of peace, and that’s a good thing,” Zhadan wrote. “But it’s important to remember that the war is definitely not over and the region is being bombed just as hard and savagely as it was in Kharkiv not long ago.”

“In cafes that reopened a few weeks ago, you don’t rush through foreign journalists anymore,” Zhadan added. “Journalists are looking for ways to get into hot spots, and thanks to the Ukrainian armed forces, the city has become a more or less quiet area behind the front lines.”

City bus service was restored to parts of the city on Monday, although damage to infrastructure prevented some lines from reopening immediately.

“All this is thanks to our heroic soldiers who drove these evil spirits out of Kharkiv,” Mayor Ihor Terekhov said in Russian in an interview with UATV TV channel on the occasion.

Karkhiv's Russian retreat on May 16
A local resident collects pieces of aluminum from a destroyed Russian tank May 16, 2022 in Biskvitne, Ukraine, east of Kharkiv. Ukrainian and western officials say Russia is withdrawing troops from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, suggesting it may redirect troops to southeastern Ukraine.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images The Ukrainian army secures Kharkiv, the second largest city, and advances to the Russian border

Rick Schindler

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