(NEXSTAR) – Despite being the second-largest metropolis in Ukraine, the northeast metropolis Kharkiv is especially threatened as Russia phases an invasion of the nation on the order of Vladimir Putin. Attacks started within the early morning hours Thursday, February 24, when bombs sounded in a dozen Ukrainian cities.
Kharkiv, which has a inhabitants of round 1.4 million individuals, is barely about 26 miles from the Russian border. The metropolis – as soon as a capital – is taken into account a cultural hub, recognized for its wealth of artwork, music and historical past.
The metropolis can also be a main goal for Russian takeover.
“Kharkiv has lengthy loomed massive in President Vladimir V. Putin’s view that Ukraine is not more than an appendage of Russia unjustly snatched away…” writes the New York Times‘ Andrew Higgins.
Here are the important thing causes Kharkiv is so weak.
Most clearly is Kharkiv’s closeness to the Russian border: The nearest Russian metropolis, Belgorad, is a mere 50 miles away. But the town is a border city in additional methods than simply the place it’s positioned.
As the Washington Post explains, the vast majority of Kharkiv’s inhabitants is Russian-speaking. Residents right here have significantly robust ties to Russia, with many touring forwards and backwards for commerce and household visits comparatively just lately. Now some say they resent battle between the 2 international locations and the way inconvenient it’s made these journeys.
Attitudes towards Russia are hotter in Kharkiv than elsewhere in Ukraine. Here, many Ukrainians additionally contemplate themselves Russian.
Kharkiv mayor Ihor Terekhov beforehand mentioned residents respect Russia and love Ukraine.
“Yes, we communicate Russian. If you ask me if Kharkiv residents need Ukraine to be mates with Russia, the reply is unquestionably sure,” mentioned Terekhov. “But do they need warfare? Definitely not. Do they need for us to be a chunk of Russia? Of course not.”
On Feb. 5, hundreds of Ukrainians marched by means of Kharkiv waving Ukraine flags and indicators studying “Kharkiv is Ukraine.” Ukraine Pres. Volodymyr Zelensky beforehand mentioned Kharkiv could be weak to Russian assault. This picture was reversed again in 2014, when pro-Russian separatists marched by means of the streets calling the town “Kharkiv People’s Republic.”
Russia-Ukraine relations have been tense since even earlier than Ukraine gained independence and separated from the Soviet Union in 1991. The state of affairs grew to become much more tenuous in 2014, when pro-Russian Pres. Viktor Yanukovych was ousted after protests. Rather than depart the nation, nevertheless, Yanukovych went to Kharkiv, the place he and several other different pro-Russia officers hoped to regain footing.
After the Ukrainian space of Crimea was seized by Russia in 2014, round half one million individuals who have been displaced from the Donetsk and Luhansk areas relocated to Kharkiv. Since 2014 (and earlier than), the town’s proximity has made pro-Russian protests – and even terror assaults – simpler to stage.