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Bloomberg: Russia tries to force Ukrainians from Kharkiv

Amid fears of destabilization fueled by a disinformation campaign, Ukraine reinforces defenses and seeks military aid while the US debates support in Congress.
Can Russia take Kharkiv?
Blackout in Kharkiv after a Russian attack. Photo: Yan Dobronosov
Bloomberg: Russia tries to force Ukrainians from Kharkiv

Ukrainian and Western officials say Russian troops have intensified attacks on Kharkiv, whose pre-war population was about 1,5 million, to force Ukrainians out of their homes, Bloomberg reports.

Russian forces failed to capture the second-biggest city in Ukraine in the first weeks of the war. But more than two years after Putin ordered the invasion, living conditions in Kharkiv have worsened increasingly.

“Take Kharkiv and gradually wind down the war.” That is how Russian exiled media Meduza has described Putin’s plans for the near future.

Meduza’s unnamed Kremlin source suggested that recent Putin’s statements about creating a “sanitary zone” around Russia’s Belgorod Oblast, which borders Kharkiv Oblast, indicate this intention. The Kremlin’s latest action looks like a coordinated effort to cut off supplies and create conditions that make the city uninhabitable.

Russia’s rumored assault on Kharkiv: assessing the threat

In April 2024, Moscow launched a “hostile disinformation” campaign to frighten residents of Kharkiv about the forceful evacuation of the population from the city due to the alleged encirclement of the city by Russian soldiers.

“The Russian occupiers, unable to achieve what they wanted on the battlefield, are trying to sow panic and chaos in Ukrainian society,” Ukraine’s Interior Ministry wrote in a social media post.

Despite Russian missile and drone attacks, Ukraine isn’t ready to give up on Kharkiv. Currently, the Ukrainian authorities are preparing plans for how to restore energy infrastructure ahead of the next heating season, which was almost entirely destroyed by air assaults, and continue to distribute the power supply across the region.

“Winter will be a challenge for us. We are discussing ways we can quickly increase capacity,” Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko told reporters in Brussels.

Although Russia persists in its attempts to force people out of Kharkiv, the US and other Western officials believe that Russia lacks the resources and soldiers to attack Kharkiv without replenishment of Russian troops, sources say.

At the same, Ukraine’s military is fortifying its defenses, and President Joe Biden’s administration has been discussing how the US can help with energy aid while Republicans are halting the crucial military assistance for the country in the US Congress.

Recently, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced Russia’s intention to recruit nearly 250,000 soldiers in 2024. This move suggests that Russia is doubling down on its military efforts, underscoring the gravity of the situation.

Western officials, analyzing Russia’s military strategy, believe that the objective of subjugating Ukraine and targeting cities like Kharkiv remains unchanged since the onset of the war. The strategic importance of Kharkiv makes it a likely focal point for future assaults, heightening concerns among Kyiv’s allies about the escalating conflict and the potential for further destabilization of the city.

For months, Ukraine has been calling for more air defense systems to fill gaps in addition to a critical shortage of ammunition. The government has asked allies for at least seven additional Patriot missile systems to protect the skies over its cities and villages. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that Germany this week pledged one, as well as more IRIS-T and Skynex systems along with ammunition.

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