Dispatches from Ukraine. Day 719.
Local. Sumy region. On the afternoon of Feb. 9, Russian forces launched an aerial bombardment from inside Russia against communities in Ukraine’s northeastern Sumy province, said the regional prosecutor’s office. At least three civilians were killed and four injured. Law enforcement recorded damage to four private residences, farming, and storage facilities.
Kharkiv region. A massive Kremlin drone attack on the northeastern city of Kharkiv claimed the lives of at least seven people on the evening of Feb. 9, said regional governor Oleh Synehubov. At approximately 11 pm, Russia rained Iranian-made Shahed 136/131 drones on a residential area of Kharkiv, setting more than 15 buildings ablaze. A family of five, 35-year-old Olha Putyatina, her husband and their three sons, aged 7 years, 4 years, and 10 months, tragically burned alive in one of those homes. Their remains were identified by rescuers a few hours later. Olha had been an employee of the Kharkiv regional prosecutor’s office since June 2012. At the time of the attack, she was on maternity leave after the birth of her third child. “A family was held hostage by fire inside their own home,” reads the goodbye message from Olha’s workplace.
Polish farmers renewed their protests at the border with Ukraine, reiterating their long-standing goal to “protect European farmers,” Ukrainian and Polish media reported on Feb. 9. Following the European Commission’s refusal to reinstate duties on agricultural exports from Ukraine that had been levied by the Polish government, close to 100 Polish farmers took to the streets to block Ukrainian lorries from both entering and leaving Poland. On Sunday, Feb. 11, demonstrators damaged three Ukrainian trucks, causing grain to spill onto the road. “Just speechless,” reacted Illia Ponomarenko, editor of the Kyiv Independent online newspaper. “Ukraine is fighting for its very existence, tries to keep the shatters of its war-ruined economy afloat, get as much money as possible to run its wartime budget – and we have this.”
Finland’s Ministry of Defense will dispatch fresh military aid to Ukraine, according to its press release dated Feb. 9. The content and delivery schedule for the aid package are being kept secret, but it is valued at approximately 190 million euros ($205 million). This tranche will bring Finland’s total miliary support for Ukraine to date to 1.8 billion euros ($1.94 billion). “New ways need to be found at national level and more widely to support Ukraine in the long term,” said Finnish defense minister Antti Häkkänen. “We are currently preparing a long-term plan for support to Ukraine.” Finland will also join artillery and mine clearance operations under the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, the body that coordinates military assistance by 54 Ukraine allies, within and outside NATO.
The Kremlin has recruited as many as 15 thousand men from Nepal to support its war efforts, CNN reported. Ramchandra Khadka, a Nepali citizen, who recently returned from the frontlines in Bakhmut, Ukraine after being injured in fighting there told CNN: “there isn’t an inch of land in Bakhmut that’s not affected by bombs. All the trees, shrubs, and greenery… they are all gone. Most of the houses have been destroyed. The situation there is so gruesome that it makes you want to cry,” Khadka added. He said that his decision to join the Russian side was principally driven by a lucrative compensation package offered by Russian officials: a monthly salary of two thousand dollars and an opportunity for fast-tracked Russian citizenship. While CNN sources put the number of Nepali recruits who have joined Russia’s war against Ukraine at 15 thousand, the Nepali government has only confirmed that 200 of its citizens joined the ranks of the Russian army, and that at least 13 were killed in the war zone.
Ukrainian journalist and documentary film maker Mstyslav Chernov won the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary for 2023 for his film “20 days in Mariupol,” which chronicles that city’s siege at the start of Russia’s full scale invasion. In his acceptance speech on Feb. 10, Chernov mentioned Russia’s horrendous bombardment of his hometown of Kharkiv, and highlighted the important role cinema plays in Ukrainian resistance. “Today my home city was attacked. Seven people were killed, among them three children. So, this is a sad day. At the same time, I see the power of cinema by standing here and looking at you. Because when these children, these people are running from bombs into basements, they are watching movies.” “20 days in Mariupol” was recently nominated for an Oscar in the feature length documentary category. Chernov and his fellow Associated Press journalists who worked on the film have already been honored with the Pulitzer Prize for public service for their reporting.
Daria Dzysiuk, Karina L. Tahiliani