Local officials in the Kharkiv region say the Ukrainian flag has been raised in settlements close to the Russian border, confirming the continued withdrawal of Russian troops into the area.
Oleksandr Kulik, an official in Derhachi northeast of the city of Kharkiv, said the Ukrainian flag had been hoisted by local residents in the city of Kozacha Lopan.
Kozacha Lopan had been occupied by the Russians since March and was an administrative center for occupation authorities. It is located five kilometers from the Russian border and was badly damaged during the conflict.
Social media videos from Derhachi City Council also showed residents of another settlement – Tokarivka – hanging the Ukrainian flag there. Tokarivka is also close to the Russian border.
Viktoriya Kolodochka, the head of the Tokarivka district, said on Sunday: “The village was empty this morning. People heard the roar of Russian military equipment. The Russians started to gather alone in the morning and began to flee.”
Kolodochka, who is not in town but has contacts there, told DailyExpertNews by phone that the Russians had left a lot of ammunition behind.
She also spoke of the months of occupation, which she described as “very scary.” She said the occupying troops were from the Luhansk People’s Militia, which she said were behaving like gangsters. They searched for people who had been with the security forces, confiscated telephones and ransacked houses. She claimed they also beat and intimidate local residents.
“They took people to the basement of the school, beat them, electrocuted them, forced them to dig trenches, forced them to give information about people who worked in Ukrainian state organs. But they didn’t kill anyone,” she told DailyExpertNews.
Kolodochka said there was no humanitarian aid until August, when the occupying forces supplied some sugar and flour. She said people lived mainly on their own garden produce. She said she had left town in April, but her parents had stayed behind.
“There are still people left [in Tokarivka] who are very, very waiting for our army,” she said. “People really need help. There are ten paralyzed old ladies. There are people with diabetes and asthma. They survive as best they can. Medicines are desperately needed.”
As for those who died during the occupation, Kolodochka told DailyExpertNews, “There are people buried in their gardens — we just buried them in their yards.”
She added that there was still great uncertainty about what will happen next. “People are still afraid. Will they stop firing? Is it true that the Russians have left? Or not? They are waiting so long for the Ukrainian army.”
But she insisted, “We’ll survive anything to be home.”