Kharkiv Takeover At Risk

Update on the ground from February 25h in Kharkiv, Ukraine by @finlookedintoit and photos also by @collin_mayfield who is with him. These lads are doing a fantastic job providing ground updates for the page. Here is the correspondence:

“Here in Kharkiv, the Ukrainians are holding the line. Over the last 12 hours, the shelling has gotten louder and closer. But the Russians haven’t decided to push in yet, and if they wanted to, we think they could have. I’m currently staying put in the city center with dozens of other journalists at a hotel. Every few hours we get ushered into the bomb shelter when the shelling gets loud.”

But to be clear, the city center hasn’t been hit yet. The consensus among those of us who stayed is that we probably have a 1-3 day window before the Russians start pushing into the city. A few journos from the NY times just rolled in from Kramatorsk. They said the road was completely empty and there weren’t any signs of fighting. Shortly after there was a big round of shelling, and the Sky News/NBC teams left for Poltava, a city just southwest of here. I talked to their head of security, and he said that he expected that shelling was a sign they were softening up defenses, and a big push would come tonight. But that hasn’t happened yet. France 24, rolling stone, WaPo, etc are still here.

We think the Russians are waiting to see how the Kyiv campaign plays out. If Kyiv falls, maybe they can get the Ukrainians here to stand down, “your central government has fallen, it’s over!” Also, if they take Kyiv, then Russia might be able to devote more resources to this front. But I don’t think it’s a resource issue, as I’ve seen satellite imagery showing the Russians are preparing for a large-scale paratrooper deployment, meaning there are still lots of assets that haven’t been deployed.

So this means they could have taken Kharkiv by now if they really wanted. Another possible explanation is that Kharkiv is a city in the Far East where a majority of people speak Russian, and (if you look at opinion polls before the invasion) supported closer integration with Russia. That doesn’t mean they’re welcoming an invasion, but there was a video posted by @roguenine apparently showing Ukrainians on the outskirts of Kharkiv cheering on Russian tanks as they rolled in. The hotel staff here are remarkably unphased, to be honest. They seem like they’ll happily live in Russian Ukraine. While internal resistance is inevitable, the Russians want to as much as possible avoid having to fight the Ukrainians from within in the coming years. They can mitigate that by not doing a major offensive in Kharkiv and trying to force a surrender. But take this all with a grain of salt! We’re watching this play out minute by minute.


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