Feb 28, 2022 - World

Ukraine says dozens killed in indiscriminate shelling in Kharkiv

Explosion in Kharkiv

A Russian armored personnel carrier on fire during battles with Ukrainian forces in Kharkiv on Saturday. Photo: Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images

The Ukrainian military said Monday that dozens of civilians were killed and hundreds wounded when Russian forces began firing indiscriminately at civilian areas in Kharkiv, a city in northeastern Ukraine on the border with Russia.

Why it matters: Kharkiv is the second-largest city in Ukraine, with a population of nearly 1.5 million people. Ukrainian forces have retained control of Kharkiv even as the city has endured some of the earliest and most intense clashes of the entire conflict.

  • Verified videos on social media show Russian rockets being launched into civilian high-rise apartment buildings, causing mass destruction and an untold number of casualties.
  • Russia had previously claimed that it is only targeting military infrastructure. Ukraine says it has documented attacks on residential areas and accused Russian forces of war crimes.

The big picture: Kharkiv, a largely Russian-speaking city just 25 miles from the border, was viewed as a key to Russia's strategy for conquering eastern Ukraine.

  • Russian forces briefly took control of the city on Sunday, but were pushed back by a counteroffensive that epitomized the fierce resistance that the Ukrainian military has put up since the invasion began.
  • Michael Kofman, a Russian military expert at CNA, told the Washington Post that he fears Russia's inability to swiftly take Kharkiv could signal that "the worst is yet to come" — meaning more intense bombardments of civilian areas and a surge in ground forces.
  • "It appears that [the Russians] are adopting a siege mentality, which any student of military tactics and strategy will tell you, when you adopt siege tactics, it increases the likelihood of collateral damage," a senior U.S. defense official told reporters Sunday.

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