Conflicts & War

Explosions, uncertainty and Russian bodies in Kharkiv

By Luis Lidón

Kharkiv, Ukraine, Jun 21 (EFE).- Residents of Kharkiv have become accustomed to thundering artillery and perpetual plumes of smoke floating on the horizon.

“I don’t care about the explosions, I’m not going to leave the city and I trust the Ukrainian Army,” says Yulia as she leaves a supermarket in one of the least affected areas.

Kharkiv’s inhabitants sought refuge underground when Russia launched its invasion in late February but were able to resume some activities again in May, when Ukrainian forces pushed Moscow’s troops out of the city.

The subway and trams are up and running again, and some gyms and bars have reopened, but the fact Kharkiv remains at war is inescapable.

Businesses have boarded up their windows and checkpoints are scattered around the city.


In Saltivka, the most affected northern neighborhood of Kharkiv, the destruction of war has embedded a putrid smell of ash and oil that wafts through the air.

Shattered apartment blocks have been stained black by relentless shelling, streets are littered with junk, charred vehicles lie abandoned, others have been crushed by debris, schools have been hollowed out and the once-thriving residential areas of Soviet architecture now look like the set of a dystopian movie.

Some locals, like Sergei, try to recover what they can from their wrecked apartments.

“It’s impossible to live here again,” he says.

Maria, another resident, says that the sweet putrid smell hovering in the air is due to rotting food that was left in refrigerators when people suddenly abandoned their homes.

Many residents of Saltivka took refuge in the Kharkiv subway for months, like 67-year-old Alexei and his 65-year-old wife Luba who continue to shelter underground.

“We don’t have anywhere else to go,” Alexei says.

“Putin freed us from our home and our peaceful life,” his wife adds sarcastically.

Luba adds that they feel safe there and will not emerge until the war is over.

“They’ll have to shoot me to make me leave,” she says as she lies on the lower bunk.


The bodies of Russian soldiers recovered in recaptured areas of the city in early May are now being exhumed.

On the fringes of Kharkiv, which is less than an hour’s drive from the Russian border, two Russian soldiers were buried by locals and the site was marked with a cross.

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