Ukraine Army Secures Kharkiv, Second-Largest City, Pushes to Russian Border

After securing the territory around Kyiv, the capital city in late March, Ukrainian forces have begun pushing Russian soldiers away from cities farther east. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense published a video on Sunday showing troops of a Kharkiv region territorial defense unit reclaiming control over a section of the state border with Russia.

Kharkiv, the country's second largest city, had been one of the population centers hardest hit since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion on February 24.

"Mr. President, we have arrived at the border of the Russian occupier," announced a Ukrainian officer in the video, standing with his men at a post demarcating Ukrainian from Russian territory.

Video of Kharkiv region territorial defense forces at the Russian border.

The following day, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky responded with a video address of his own: "Guys. Kharkiv. To the 227th battalion and to the 127th brigade of the territorial defense, thank you. My gratitude to you has no borders."

Although these are significant gains for the Ukrainian forces, they have yet to secure the entirety of the Kharkiv region. Even as the Russian army pulls back from the areas around the city, it continues to defend positions in the areas around the transport hub of Izyum in the east of the province.

A map from the Institute for the Study of War shows that, while Ukrainian forces have succeeded in pushing back Russian troops in some areas, large parts of Ukraine remain under Russian occupation.

Tuesday morning brought no reports of further damage to the city of Kharkiv itself, but the Kharkov regional administration announced that Russian rockets had hit the northeast suburb of Tsyrkuny overnight, wounding two residents and killing one 40-year-old man.

Still, Ukraine's success in pushing the occupying forces further away from the city has allowed for the return of some aspects of regular daily life. On Monday, Ukrainian poet and Kharkiv native Serhiy Zhadan posted an update to his Facebook page.

"The city is quickly restoring its peacetime rhythm, and that's a good thing," Zhadan wrote. "But it's important to remember that the war is definitely not over, and that in the region they're bombing just as hard and cruelly as they were doing not long ago in Kharkiv."

"In cafes, which reopened a few weeks ago, you're no longer pushing your way through foreign journalists," Zhadan added. "The journalists are looking for the chance to get themselves into hotspots, and thanks to the Ukrainian armed forces, the city has become a more or less calm area behind the front lines."

City bus service was restored in parts of the city on Monday, though damage to infrastructure prevented some lines from being reopened immediately.

"This is all thanks to our heroic soldiers driving those evil spirits away from Kharkiv," Mayor Ihor Terekhov said in Russian in an interview with television channel UATV marking the occasion.

Karkhiv Russian Withdrawal May 16
A local resident scavenges pieces of aluminum from a destroyed Russian tank on May 16, 2022 in Biskvitne, Ukraine to the east of Kharkiv. Ukrainian and Western officials say Russia is withdrawing forces around Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, suggesting it may redirect troops to Ukraine's southeast. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images