Nuances of the Special Operation’s First Days & Notes From Kharkov

NEW – July 17, 2022

This will be the look of a person who was born and raised in Russia, but has been living in Kharkov for a long time (it so happened). When the special military operation began, I also, like many, thought that Kharkov would be taken in a couple of days and Russia would be here. As a person who participated in various events in 2014, I know perfectly well how many pro-Russian residents there are. It was in Kharkov that the biggest rallies and huge enthusiasm took place. Then, however, it turned out that the weapons and determination of the local elites were more important. Kharkov lost, and the pro-Russian people fell silent.

After the start of the special military operation, the city was empty, a huge number of people left. The bombing and shelling began, and I began to worry a lot that even the loyal ones would hate Russia. I have always been and will be for my Motherland, but how are these people who were born and raised in Ukraine… Not only the shelling, but also the zombie house, where hell was just going on. At the same time, everything is closed, shops, cash machines do not work, there is no work and payment for it at all.

After a little time, they got used to the fighting near Kharkov, humanitarian aid began to arrive, March and April, in general, standing in queues. That’s when I started discovering interesting things for myself. The vast majority of people avoid talking about “sensitive” topics. At first, carefully, with half-hints, glances, conversations, “nothing”, etc., the views of the interlocutor are probed, and only then one can talk. People with pro-Ukrainian positions do not count, they discuss their issues loudly and calmly.

So, among the silent majority there are a huge number of people for Russia. The sample, of course, is not representative. But many times I heard a quiet and calm: “We are waiting”, “I can’t wait until…”. If anyone laments, then it’s about the destruction of Kharkov, but being at the same time pro-Russia. I keep in touch with some of them, although I haven’t met them before.

It’s funny, but a lot of “Ukrainian patriots” were left for the west of Ukraine instead of the military enlistment office. I know one who immediately left for Lvov and is not going to return. He keeps thinking about how to go to Canada, to his relatives. There is no question of taking up arms and defending Ukraine at all. I hope that many of these “frightened patriots” will not return to Kharkov anymore. And that’s good.

There is every reason to think that after the arrival of the Russian army, the attitude of the population will not be very different from Donbass, Crimea, or the southern regions, no matter who or what they say about the “cradle of Ukrainian Nazism”. The only thing to keep in mind is the “sleeping” agents of the GUR and the SBU, sabotage groups that will begin to manifest themselves over time. There is, of course, painstaking work to be done here.

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I don’t even want to listen to sofa commentators saying that “Kharkov is Banderist”, “Donbass and the southern regions are enough” and so on.

There are a lot of people in Kharkov waiting for Russia. There are many more of them than one would assume after many years of zombification.

Now the arrivals of Iskanders, shelling, fighting are routine, everyone is used to it. From the new habits, I will note the deletion of browser history and other things when going outside. Personally, I have had the contents of my smartphone checked 2 times over these months. Documents are checked and searched less often now, stopped for the delivery of a summons – more often. I have been stopped 5 times for the delivery of a summons, while it is going around. If I were younger, it would probably be worse.

No rallies, protests under martial law and the presence of any “Kraken” are impossible, people are just waiting. Such are things.

In the next part, I want to share some observations on the organisation of the defence of Kharkov in the first days of hostilities, and why they were able to hold the city, contrary to all expectations.

On February 24, we woke up to the sounds of distant explosions, panic in the city, an endless stream of cars on some streets in the afternoon, wishing to leave Kharkov as soon as possible. I’m happy, I think our people will enter soon. It turned out that not everything is so simple.

I want to say right away that, in my opinion, the idea that, they say, they were mistaken, that the original plans of their own had to be changed, and, almost on the fly, to make a new plan for a special operation is complete nonsense.

I think they gave an opportunity to those with whom there were agreements in some cities to try to neutralise the security forces and the administration. The first days showed how deeply the parallel structures of the West have penetrated into the decision-making system. I believe that this was expected, and slowly, after assessing the scale of the impact, the reformatting of its own began. No one “on the fly”, convulsively did not make up new plans. The General Staff obviously had all the plans ready, there are no fools there.

Speaking of Kharkov, it should be understood that the group advancing at that time was relatively small and could enter the city only in case of surrender. Its task, apparently, was to test the readiness for defence, its features, and only if the internal forces were successful, to take the city. There was no order to take the city, I agree. At the same time, I consider only Kharkov. I think the rapid capture of Kiev, initially, was not considered. At all. These manoeuvres near Kiev had other goals.

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Returning to Kharkov, I would like to focus on this. Immediately, on the first day, groups of people with weapons began to gather in different places. It must be remembered that just before the start of his campaign, Zelensky held a visiting meeting of the Security Council of Ukraine in Kharkov, and the SBU announced anti-terrorist measures in the Kharkov region from the end of February to the beginning of March. Over the past eight years, many people have passed through the ATO, and, as I understand it, motivated and ideological people were organised in advance, weapons were distributed and gathering places were designated.

The technology consisted of (having intelligence and terrain features) sending motivated Kharkov nationalists and units from western Ukraine ready to open fire towards the small advancing forces. On February 25, the Russian Defence Ministry said that only nationalists were resisting. In the case of Kharkov, I think this is all the more true. Their task was to gain time. Further, telling about the “failure” of Putin’s plans, trumpeting the imminent “victory”, showing the powerful reaction of the Western coalition, it was planned to gradually involve (by the policy of carrot and stick) the wavering commanders of the units directly into the fighting. The first damaged tanks, destroyed equipment and people obviously played their part. After a while, the entire Ukrainian army got involved. Once again, I want to focus on the statement in the first days that only nationalists are resisting. I have no reason to doubt it. In the early days, all these groups were constantly moving from one direction to another, closing gaps. They completed their task, gained time. I believe that such a scheme has been applied everywhere, along the entire front line. At the same time, direct threats, and, probably, the neutralisation of sympathisers of Russia among the authorities and the security forces. Multiply this by absolute censorship in the media and at the output we get a gradual involvement of the entire Ukrainian army in combat operations. “A fly in the ointment.”

I am not writing as a military analyst, but as an ordinary resident. There is and will be no analysis of positions, manoeuvres. These are personal observations and perceptions of what was happening then, not obvious to many features of the initial stage. Carefully, based on the analysis of open sources, I will assume that the probability of Kharkov’s surrender was high, but it was prevented by the actions of Western curators with the help of the SBU and the GUR, including with the help of organised groups of nationalists

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In the enthusiasm of the “Ukrainian patriots” in the first days of the war, the perception of the upcoming hostilities through the eight-year “anti-terrorist operation” in Donbass, and for some through the prism of some “Counter Strike”, probably played a role. Back then most of these “patriots” obviously did not understand that no one would play with them as in computer games, but would simply destroy them with artillery, aviation. That’s exactly why they were enthusiastic back then. But they are not right now. However, the job is done, the fighting unfolded with might and main, and the Russian army, having met fierce resistance, began the next phase of the operation to grind the UAF in Donbass.

Denazification and demilitarisation are taking place not only on the territory of the LPR and the DPR, but also on the entire territory of Ukraine, which, at first glance, is not obvious. For example, by leaving a small number of troops in the Kharkov region and showing in every possible way (since spring) that no one would storm Kharkov, Russia was pushing Ukrainians to transfer part of the troops to strengthen the Donbass grouping. Creating the illusion of the possibility of a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kharkov region, it also lured “Kraken” and others out of the city and destroyed them. As a result, denazification and demilitarisation are also taking place in Kharkov. It’s like diluting alcohol with water.

This tactic seems to be working. Motivated Ukrainians are being replaced by less motivated ones. The best of the best are replaced by the worst of the best, those in turn are the best of the worst, and then comes the turn of the worst of the worst. It is obvious that the newly mobilised are not as eager to fight as their predecessors in the early days of the war. This is happening all over Ukraine. The processes of changing both the quantity and quality of Ukros are underway, although this does not mean that the capture of Kharkov will be easy. There is and cannot be any unreasonable optimism, as well as pessimism. There is no doubt that the General Staff of Russia and the intelligence agencies are very well aware of the ongoing processes and partly influence them. I believe that it will not be like in Mariupol. There is a feeling that it won’t be long.

Although I personally believe that the priority is an early exit to Transnistria. When taking the Nikolaev and Odessa regions, Ukraine and its curators can expect interesting surprises, which I don’t want to talk about now. Nevertheless, I still think that soon Kharkov will be taken seriously.


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