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Thu Jan 27, 2022, 08:46 PM

The Cracks in Ukrainian Society Run through Kharkiv

The Cracks in Ukrainian Society Run through Kharkiv
The Ukrainian city of Kharkiv is located close to the Russian border, and it could become a combat zone in the event of an attack. Many residents fled here from the fighting in the separatist areas. Some are packing their bags, but others are waiting to see what happens.

By Lina Verschwele in Kharkiv, Ukraine
25.01.2022, 10.00 Uhr

(Der Spiegel) Olena Rozskazova has packed the most important documents in a Mickey Mouse backpack. Birth certificates, diplomas, travel documents, plus medicines and cash. She has also packed her daughter’s favorite stuffed animal and a book of Greek legends her parent’s used to read to her. In the event of an invasion, she says, she would probably leave behind the Beatles photos hanging on the wall of her apartment.

Rozskazova, 46, is someone who likes to wrap unpleasant things in cheerfulness. She also likes to be prepared. She packed the Mickey Mouse backpack "just in case," she says. So she would have the most important things at hand, just like the authorities recommend in preparation for a possible Russian invasion. Rozskazova would then take the backpack and travel with her nine-year-old daughter to friends in Uzhgorod, in the southwestern tip of Ukraine, because it is easy to get abroad from there. She’s thought everything through.

Rozskazova lives in Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, with a population of nearly 1.5 million, about a third of whom are Russians and members of the Russian-speaking minority. She grew up in Luhansk at the country's eastern edge. But since separatists took control of the city in 2014 and proclaimed the "Luhansk People’s Republic," Rozskazova hasn’t been able to return. But the threat, though, remains close: Her new apartment is located fewer than 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border. In Kharkiv, she heads the regional office of the Renaissance Foundation, which promotes democracy and human rights and is funded by George Soros.


For the past several weeks, around 100,000 Russian soldiers have been stationed near the Ukrainian border. Kharkiv could be a possible target of a Russian attack, but no one really knows what exactly Moscow might be planning. Still, it is clear that the city plays a central role in the current conflict. Ukraine’s internal divisions are especially visible here. Kharkiv, along with Donetsk and Luhansk, has long been considered a stronghold of supporters of Russia and advocates of rapprochement with Moscow. The situation in the city was already tense during the Maidan protests of 2013 and 2014, which saw tens of thousands of Ukrainians demonstrating against the country's pro-Russian president at the time and in favor of closer ties with the European Union. While some brought down the gigantic statue of Lenin on Freedom Square amid cheers, others demonstrated for a "Russian Spring."

The Kremlin also promoted the idea of a separate "People’s Republic" in Kharkiv. But unlike in Luhansk and Donetsk, it failed due to the resistance of Ukrainian security forces. In the last parliamentary elections three years ago, the pro-Russian party For Life became the second strongest force in Kharkiv. In the run-up to the elections, there had been disinformation campaigns and acts of sabotage allegedly directed by Russia. ............(more)


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