Alexis Daloumis reached the frontline city shortly after Ukrainian forces had pushed the Russian Army out of artillery range, and reports on the situation as it recovers from the assault.
This is another interim reportage before the second part of my main piece, which has only recently concluded its production stage. It’s about the situation in Kharkiv as life comes slowly back to normal after the siege around it subsided.
Going to Kharkiv had been my purpose since quite early on during my time in Ukraine. It wasn’t just about getting to the city though, but rather waiting for a specific context with specific people. The plan was to follow a special and valuable package from Operation Solidarity, which was going to be sent to some local anarchists in the Territorial Defense that the organization had been supporting since the beginning of the war. The comrades were deployed in the Drone Reconnaissance Unit and the package was a brand new, state of the art, commercial drone, with extra-long range of operation and other specs.
This proved to be a complicated and repeatedly postponed endeavor. The war was too intense for these comrades to be able to commit to meeting with me and were even advising me to stay away from the city until further notice. At the same time the package was also not ready to be sent.
Finally the drone arrived in Kyiv and was good to go, just as the Russian forces were being pushed back and their artillery got out of range, which made Kharkiv much safer and more easily accessible.
Things still couldn’t work as originally planned, as none of the members of Operation Solidarity was available to travel with me on a train to deliver the package, so the drone was sent through courier service. The video of its unboxing however will feature in the second part of my main piece.
When I arrived in Kharkiv on May 7th, it was already past the point that Kyiv was when I first got there. Life was getting gradually normalised as the Russian troops were being pushed even further back, but there was a benchmark still to pass before the normalisation process could properly kick in – the 9th of May.
It had been the assumption of British Intelligence (among others) that Russia was planning to announce victory on the anniversary of the Allies’ victory against the Nazis in WW2. This soon became quite unlikely, but the suspicion remained that Putin would try to harness narrative value from 9th of May’s symbolism, by launching a grand scale strike as a statement. There was particular concern about the possibility of Kharkiv receiving severe bombardment, because as another anarchist previously deployed there told me, despite its artillery being out of range, the Russian army has a massive stock and variety of much longer range missiles, which could still devastate the city.
In the end nothing such happened in Kharkiv on that day and not much overall (there were some missile strikes in Odessa). So instead the 9th of May became the turning point for the city. The previously, mostly empty roads leading into it, were congested with the cars of people returning to their homes.
But the city has suffered a lot of pain and damage, its urban and social tissue is scarred by destruction and terror and there is much healing which needs to be done and people in need of help.
In the video you can see some images of destruction as well as the mobilisation for humanitarian aid which was often shaped in terms of spontaneous, self-organised solidarity.