KHARKIV, Ukraine — One person was killed and 31 wounded in the latest shelling of Kharkiv by Russian military over the weekend, according to CNN.
Kharkiv is located in eastern Ukraine, just 20 miles from the Russian border where troops poured into the country on Thursday.
On Saturday, the Ukrainian president’s office said Russian forces blew up a gas pipeline in Kharkiv. The State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection warned that the explosion, which it said looked like a mushroom cloud, could cause an “environmental catastrophe” and advised residents to cover their windows with damp cloth or gauze and to drink plenty of fluids.
Cincinnati and Kharkiv have been sister cities since September 11, 1989, when Cincinnati Mayor Charles Luken and Konstantin Khirnyi, leader of the Kharkiv delegation, signed documents uniting the two cities, according to the Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister City Program, a non-profit, volunteer-driven program.
Kharkiv is the closest Ukrainian city to the Russian border. It is home to several industrial factories, including facilities that build tanks and aircraft, and there is an airbase just outside of the city. It is also home to a university.
Kharkiv is important to Russia in the narrative being pushed by the Kremlin. Ukraine belongs to them as part of the "Russian empire". The New York Times reports that when protesters toppled Ukraine's pro-Russian president in 2014 in the capitol city of Kyiv, Russia shifted its focus to rally opposition to Ukraine's independence to Kharkiv. The ousted president fled to Kharkiv where he tried to orchestrate a resistance effort, which quickly fizzled.
Kharkiv is a melting pot of different cultures and ethnic groups, including a large Jewish population that played an important role in shaping the country's independence. It served as the first capital of the "Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic," a Russian-led opposition to independence on Ukraine, which crushed the country's first attempt at independence in 1918 after World War I, according to the NY Times.
Ukraine only gained full independence in 1991, the same year the Soviet Union dissolved.
Now, President Vladimir Putin seeks to "demilitarize" the country amid its bid to join NATO, according to the Associated Press.
Smoke could be seen rising at the Chuhuiv Airbase outside of Kharkiv on Thursday as a result of some of the Russian attacks, which damaged a fuel storage depot and other airport infrastructure, according to the Military Times.
A report from Foreign Policy said a boy was among the dead when shelling struck an apartment building in Kharkiv on Thursday, one of more than 100 deaths reported in the early fighting. A large force of Ukrainian military troops were stationed at Kharkiv to try and repel the Russian invasion, while an "underground resistance" of citizens "able to hold a weapon" have also formed, answering the Ukrainian Defense Minister's call to arms, Foreign Policy reported.
Residents have been trying to flee the city since the bombardment began and taken to the subway to keep themselves safe from the bombing, but Sky News reported the longest line that they saw was not one to leave and run, but rather to give blood.
The Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister City Program (CKSCP) says that since forming the partnership, more than 2,500 Cincinnatians and Kharkivities have traveled between the two cities to "share, teach, learn and understand."
The goal of the sister city partnership is to "enhance civic, cultural and economic potential for both cities," CKSCP's website says.
The Cincinnati sign on the side of the Duke Energy Convention Center was lit up in blue and yellow early Friday morning in support of Kharkiv and the entire country of Ukraine.
Cincinnati's other sister cities around the world are:
- Nancy, France
- Munich, Germany
- Amman, Jordan
- Harare, Zimbabwe
- Mysore, India
- Liuzhou, China
- New Taipei City, Taiwan
- Gifu, Japan