After confronting Russian soldiers in the streets of Ukraine’s second biggest city, the regional governor claims that Ukrainian forces now have complete control of Kharkiv.
“We have total control of Kharkiv!” On Sunday afternoon, as Russia’s four-day military assault accelerated, Oleh Sinegubov posted on Facebook, “The armed forces, the police, and the defence forces are working, and the city is being thoroughly cleaned of the enemy.”
Sinegubov had previously stated that “the Russian enemy’s light trucks broke into the city of Kharkiv” and urged inhabitants to remain in bunkers.
Russian vehicles were seen moving across Kharkiv in videos posted on Ukrainian media and social media, as well as a light vehicle burning on the street.
Heavy bombardment began late Saturday and lasted through the night and into Sunday, said to Maria Avdeeva, the European Expert Association’s research director in Kharkiv.
On Sunday morning, she claimed, “I’ve even heard the [sound] of gunfire on the streets.”
“What we know today is that Russia is infiltrating the city in tiny groups, using lighter military vehicles, and the Ukrainian military is destroying them.” Some of the units were already killed; they attempted to approach the city centre, and we have seen several photographs of Russian military vehicles that have been destroyed,” she continued.
“The situation is quite fluid, and the Ukrainian military is fighting back vehemently. There are also territory defence forces, and these individuals will be involved in the street combat.”
Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid said from Dnipro, further south, that Russian soldiers had also blown up a gas pipeline north of Kharkiv as part of their efforts to destabilise the country’s infrastructure.
“From what we gather, the city is now surrounded on all sides by Russians, and civilians – those attempting to flee – are finding it impossible to get out,” she continued.
Kharkiv is located in northeast Ukraine, near the separatist-controlled areas of Luhansk and Donetsk, and is more than 400 kilometres (almost 250 miles) from Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
“A lot of the people who reside there are ethnically Russian, and it’s a place that has historically supported Russia,” Abdel-Hamid added. “The two sides have a lot of business and family ties, and I think the Russians were startled to discover that this city, despite all of these ties, has really put up a fight and is opposing their assault,” she continued.
The Russian soldiers targeted Kharkiv “by calculation” from the outset of their operation on Thursday, according to Abdel-Hamid.
“They hoped to utilise Kharkiv as a sort of rear base, and then go south towards Dnipro, which the Russians covet,” she continued. When the conflict in eastern Ukraine erupted in 2014, Abdel-Hamid remarked that Dnipro “was the Ukrainian military’s headquarters, and it was from here that they launched the attacks to push back the rebels.”
Huge explosions lit up the sky south of the capital, Kyiv, early Sunday, as locals hunkered down in houses, underground garages, and subway stations in preparation for a full-scale Russian attack.
According to the town’s mayor, flames billowed into the sky before daybreak from an oil storage near an airport in Vasylkiv, where there has been fierce combat. Another explosion was reported at the civilian Zhuliany Airport, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s administration.
The Kremlin directed its forces to march in Ukraine “from all directions” on Saturday, four days after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the assault.
According to Western reports, Russian ground forces have advanced into Ukraine from the north, east, and south, but have met heavy opposition from Ukrainian troops, whose aggressiveness has undoubtedly startled Moscow.