“If Kharkiv falls, Ukraine will fall”: BBC on the battlefield with Ukrainian troops | International | News

In the early days of the invasion, Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine fought against the Russian armored colony. Since then, it has suffered overnight Russian airstrikes and bombings, killing dozens of civilians and injuring hundreds more. BBC correspondent Quentin Sommerville and cinematographer Darren Conway fought with Ukrainian forces this week to block a new Russian advance.

Warning: This information contains content that may be offensive to some viewers.

The first casualty of the war. Ask the young soldier in the front row when the attack took place or the old lady who was in the hospital bed when his house was bombed and they will look at you confused. Was it 24 hours ago or 48? The days are gone, they tell you.

In Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, time is resilient. It is close to the Russian border and the night bombardment of Russian artillery and warplanes has not stopped. The last two weeks seemed like an eternity, but the silence is as memorable as yesterday.

On the frozen terrain on the northeast edge of the city, 21-year-old Lieutenant Yevgen Kromatsky stretches out his arms. Trenches have been dug nearby. “Goes out,” he says, raising his right hand, with fiery blows from their positions. “Incoming,” he says, and his left hand dial. With a crack, Russian bombs are fired from their positions 900 meters away in the snow-covered fields.

The attack continues like clockwork on the edge of this bombed-out city: “In, out, in, out,” Lieutenant Kromatsky waved his hand at the sound of each attack.

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We met this afternoon, but I already knew it His father Oleg died last week defending the city And Lieutenant Kromatsky was a member of the Seventh Generation of soldiers in his family. He plans an eighth in a free Ukraine.

He describes the fight so far: “Sapphire teams are testing our lines [de defensa], We have direct tank battles. They fire mortar shells first, then tanks fire at our positions.

White flag trick

We go from one level to another in the front row.

Inside his armored car, a Russian military cap – a trophy from his first capture – hangs from the roof, and he continues: “We shoot anti-tank guided missiles and conventional small arms. They go down and scatter. There are always a lot of people,” he said. Says.

Kharkiv has suffered severe damage from Russian attacks.

Inside the van are Mexican Day of the Dead Air fresheners. Smiling skulls hanging from every corner as we jump on the bumpy dirt road. On the ground of the vehicle, rocket-propelled grenades roll.

From the front passenger seat, Lieutenant Kromatsky says, “Sometimes they use this tactic: first, they raise a white flag on their team, and then they approach our positions. As we approach and take them prisoners of war, they begin firing on our forces.”.

The position was attacked on Monday (or the day before, he wonders), with two Russian tanks and an armored vehicle. “Don’t worry, we’re well protected,” he says, pointing to a stack of Javelin anti – tank guided missiles made in the United States. Its cover reads “Lockheed Martin, Texas”.

Nearby are new generation British anti-tank (NLAW) missiles. “It kills even the most advanced tanks,” its manufacturer Saab promises on its website.

It is very cold and two puppies are playing at the feet of Lieutenant Kromatsky. A pair of white Puma sneakers in his shoes: “Here you have to be fast,” he says.

The Ukrainians are advancing in this war. His government has been criticized for not being properly prepared, and now there is an urgency to bring people to the forefront. The regular army is attached to the civil defense forces.

At a rally on the eastern edge of the city, I see buses coming in with hundreds of new weapons. “Where’s my bulletproof vest?” Someone asks. “You’ll get ahead of it,” an officer yells, and after a while they are gone.

Some will join Lieutenant Kromatsky’s unit and work with a doctor who calls himself Reaper. [una referencia a “grim reaper” como se conoce en inglés a la Parca]. “Have you heard of the angel of death?” He asks. He is also the commander of this line of defense on the edge of a city. Many houses were destroyed or damaged by the Russian bombing.

How do the Russians fight, I ask. “They fight like stupid animals,” Reaper says. “They are fighting like 1941: they have no maneuver, they are coming forward, that’s all. They have a lot of people, a lot of tanks, a lot of vehicles, but we fight for our land, we protect our families, we fight like lions no matter how they fight, they will not win.

In the back, the kitchen is a restaurant. The military cook is promisingly big with a knitted hat on his head. He offers bowls of stewed porridge (beetroot soup): “Wipe it with sour cream,” he insists. There are lots of cakes and cookies made by local factories for the troops.

Battalion Commander Sergei.

I am sitting next to a 30-year-old battalion commander named Sergei. “We see the enemy, we kill the enemy, no conversation, that’s all“, Dice.

He wants to know where I come from. I tell him, he asks if it is true that British volunteers came to fight for Ukraine. “What plane did you give us?” He says as he finishes his porch.

But Russia is advancing in eastern and southern Ukraine. The Russian army met with stronger opposition than expected, but the cities continued to fall. For all their courage in the front line, it was recognized that the skill of the Ukrainian troops on the ground was not enough. Soldier after soldier says they need air defense, which is a non-flying area.

I got into another armored vehicle and collected money from banks in the city two weeks ago. They have now enlisted him in the service of the war effort. As we drive through the city with vast boulevards and beautiful buildings, we come to a Soviet-era apartment building. There I meet Eugene, a big man like a Viking, tattooed heavily with an orange beard.

“If Kharkiv falls, Ukraine will fall all over”Eugene, 36, tells me. He is part of a spy team that works near blocks of residential buildings. Some apartments have been hit directly and a car in the parking lot has been damaged by another missile attack.

Eugene is part of a spy team.

The absence of Kharkiv here is a surprise in the Russian offensive. “We know they’re coming in 2014, maybe in 1 year, 10 years or 1,000 years, but we know they’ve coming.”

At 4:55 pm on February 24, Eugene received a call from a friend saying the attack was about to begin. “Then I heard rockets hit our city,” he says. Like everyone else he did not come home.


Leaving the front to return to the city center is almost like stepping into another world. The relentless Russian bombings led to the evacuation of most of the 1.5 million population.

Some neighborhoods have escaped some kind of damage. First thing in the morning, you can still find queues at pharmacies, banks, supermarkets and gas stations, with those staying behind going to stock up. A huge logistics and humanitarian effort is underway behind the scenes to keep Kharkiv running.

Before the curfew order, I will go to the city hospital No. 4 and meet with Dr. Alexander Dukovsky, head of pediatrics. Underneath his white hospital outfit, he wears a Miami Beach 2015 jersey emblazoned with the American flag. He did not come home for several weeks.

He laughs when I say that Russia says I am not targeting civilians. Then, quietly, he led me through the corridors of the victims of the Russian attack. As the Russian bombs landed nearby, the wounded were in the corridors, so the patients were not safe on the wards. With large windows. Most of the people here were injured while at home.

The pediatric intensive care unit is located on the ground floor. Its narrow windows catch the bright light from the snow outside.

Eight-year-old Dmitry is in bed nearby. His toes stuck out from under the blanket and one hand, wound and blood, stuck out. His face has hundreds of marks scratched and scars. His right eye was not completely closed. A few days ago, doctors removed a bullet from under his skull and spine.

He is expected to fully recover, but he is currently in a critical condition, with fluids from his small body being filtered through tubes into plastic bottles under his bed. The thin blanket of tiny roses rises and falls with her mechanical breath.

Dmitry in intensive care.

Vladimir Putin said he wanted to militarize Ukraine, but instead said he would create unmanned land. At night, the whole city is in darkness. A series of Russian attacks falls overnight.

Kharkiv was once the capital of Ukraine: you can expect parks, cathedrals, museums and theaters, the Antonov aeronautical factory and factories for tanks and turbines.

The whole city is now a battlefield.

And this should not surprise us. The Russian War Games Guide has been completed in Syria over the past 10 years. Surround, besiege and intimidate people. In Ukraine, as in Syria, people are being driven out of their hometowns as Russian forces continue to advance.

But Ukraine is still resisting.

I meet the intelligence team wandering around with anti-tank missiles ready to be used behind their vehicles. Again, I go to the edge of town and go through the front rows as a scraper. On the outskirts of the city are two gas stations destroyed by shelling and gunfire.

Lying in the snow, there are a dozen frozen Russian corpses. Men lie like wax figures, some with outstretched arms, their matted beards frozen and stiff from the cold.

One’s gut is scattered in the front yard. There are blood red footprints around his body. Their weapons have been taken from them, and I ask one of the officers, Udaya, what will happen to the bodies.

“What do you think will happen? We will leave them for the dogs. ”

In this miserable place on the edge of Kharkiv, two weeks ago its default was surrounded by frozen corpses, as if time had stopped. (I)

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