KHARKIV – Among the boarded-up windows and blast-scarred buildings of Ukraine’s second-largest city, where Russian missiles and rockets strike during the day and the night, fear forms the backdrop of life.
As Ukrainian forces advance in their counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region, pushing Russian forces out of territory they have held for months, strikes have continued unabated on the city, already hammered by artillery during months of war.
A missile strike on a power station Sunday night sparked a major fire and plunged Kharkiv into darkness for hours. In the blackness, another missile slammed into a residential building at around midnight, collapsing part of it and killing one person, local officials said.
“It’s dangerous to live in Kharkiv, every day is dangerous. It’s dangerous during the day and night,” said Kateryna Protsenko, a 29-year-old veterinarian living across the street from the apartment building.
“The nights are sleepless, but anyway you continue to live because you have a family and you need to survive and work somehow,” she said, visibly shaken at the sight of the building, a gaping hole where part of the third story used to be.
The building’s facade had peeled off and piles of rubble lay strewn on the ground, mixed with the twisted metal shrapnel of the missile. On the building’s second story, a closet stood suddenly exposed, a single coat hanger dangling precariously from its rail.
Protsenko said she couldn’t leave Kharkiv — she needed to work, and there were still sick animals to treat.
“So you live where you can live, and you understand that today you are alive but you can be gone in a minute," she said.
More explosions sounded out in the middle of the day Monday, with a police administrative building set on fire by a strike that killed one person in a neighboring building.
“Russia carried out a rocket attack against a peaceful city, where peaceful people live, just the same as the people living in the United States of America, or anywhere else in the world, who go to school, have their ordinary lives, raise their children,” Kharkiv regional police chief Volodymyr Timoshko said.
Behind him, firefighting crews clambered up ladders with hoses, dousing the flames leaping out of the top story of the building as choking smoke billowed out over the city.
Timoshko said authorities believed the building was hit by a rocket from a Smerch multiple rocket launcher.
“It’s quite a powerful weapon which is used for mass destruction, I repeat, mass destruction of the population,” he said. “They are using it during the daytime in the city center, the city which is living a normal life.”
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