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Every child's death makes the Ukrainian resolve to fight stronger, says Kharkiv resident

A damaged car sits at the central square following shelling of the City Hall building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on, March 1, 2022. (Pavel Dorogoy/AP)
A damaged car sits at the central square following shelling of the City Hall building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on, March 1, 2022. (Pavel Dorogoy/AP)

Powerful airstrikes continue to hit civilian targets in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Thursday, hitting at least three schools and driving residents into shelters.

Though there are no official numbers yet, security analyst and Kharkiv resident Maria Avdeeva says the toll is climbing and that no one in the city is safe.

For about two to three hours in the mornings before the airstrikes begin, Avdeeva heads downtown to video the destruction of buildings, homes and cars. She says during this period, the people of Kharkiv go out and get some food while they can. Once the air sirens go off, people scramble to get back to shelters, she says.

Currently, the Russian military is using airstrikes to target residential areas in Kharkiv — places with no military infrastructure. Airstrikes cause any nearby buildings and cars to be completely destroyed, with windows blown out and roofs taken off.

There’s no justification for these “purely civilian” bombardments, which greatly impact residents’ ability to safely leave the city and are causing severe food and fuel shortages, Avdeeva says.

“That is completely [a] war crime against the civilian population in Ukraine and in Kharkiv,” she says.

Interview Highlights

On whether Russian forces will take control of Kharkiv

“They tried to enter the cities, so there was an on-ground operation several days ago. But it failed because the city [fought] back fiercely, the Ukrainian military and also territorial defense units. I myself have seen the Russian military vehicles destroyed on the streets of Kharkiv, so it failed and apparently, Putin’s plan of control over Kharkiv failed. And now Russian troops have got control over small villages and towns in the Kharkiv region, so outside of the city. They are now situated in the villages, which makes it impossible for an Ukrainian artillery to shoot and to shell them because they are hiding behind the Ukrainian civilian population.

“So what it looks like is that Putin probably will continue to use his troops to terrorize the city and wait until it has less resources, and probably it will be more and more hard for the population to survive here. But the morale of Ukrainian military is really high, and I only hear that with every Ukrainian child killed, the readiness and ability to fight is more and more hard because they want revenge for every Ukrainian killed.”

On what is known about casualties so far

“We don’t have … any exact numbers. The mayor of Kharkiv says it is dozens of people, and today, he said the confirmed number of children killed by the strikes was four. But we don’t have exact numbers because the bodies are still buried under the destructed buildings, so it takes time to get the exact numbers.”

On Russian soldiers in the region asking local Ukrainians to supply them with food

“Yes, we have seen that. And there are also videos of that where when [Russian soldiers] see the resistance, they very often put down their weapons because they are not ready to die for Putin and his ideas. So now, when they see what is happening and they’ve been captured on camera, they say that they had resources only for three days, meaning the resources of the food and supplies and the fuel supplies. And Russia was planning to end all operation [on] the 6th of March. That’s what the Ukrainian military intelligence says. So now, when [Russian soldiers] are staying in the Ukrainian cities and towns, which they control at the moment, they do not have any supplies from Russian sides. It makes it difficult for them to be here. That gives much more chances for Ukraine.”

On why Ukrainians are calling for a no-fly zone to be imposed immediately

“Yes, that is what Ukrainian Civil Society is asking the international community to do. It’s because we, Ukrainian army and citizens, are holding everything here on the ground. But what Russia now does, it now attacks our innocent cities from the sky, bombing houses and residential areas. So the no-fly zone over all Ukraine or even some areas of Ukraine will allow some safe place where people could go. People with children and with elderly [people] will find some safe place. So that means that if the NATO countries agree on that and establish that no-fly zone, so that will mean that Russia will not be able to make airstrikes and drop bombs in that area, and that area will be the area of safety for Ukrainian people.”

On whether Kharkiv feels safe

“No, I don’t think that anyone in Kharkiv can feel safe right now because any moment and anywhere you can become the target for the airstrike attack and even in the bomb shelters, it’s still, you know, uncomfortable to be hearing the air sirens going on. And it’s already seven days since the war started, and people are exhausted because of that. But still, we are ready to fight and that’s most important. So I see the determination in the eyes of people who are in territorial defense in our military and they are ready to be here and to protect Ukraine and our citizens. And that’s why I’m staying here — because I don’t want to leave the city. It’s Russian soldiers who should go home.”


Karyn Miller-Medzon produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.