Even amid the deteriorating military situation in the east, signs of prewar life were returning to other parts of Ukraine. In Kharkiv, the target of a recently repulsed Russian onslaught that forced authorities to turn the northeastern city’s metro system into a bomb shelter, subways were running again, said Mayor Igor Terekhov on the messaging app Telegram.
A sense of normality has also come to the capital, Kyiv, just two months after Russian tanks were massing on its outskirts. Ukrainian forces managed to keep them out, forcing Moscow to withdraw and redeploy its troops to the east.
Despite the military setbacks in the Donbas, a feeling of triumph seems prevalent in Kyiv as those who fled the city in the early days of the war pour back. In recent days, residents have come out in large numbers to view a public war trophy: the remnants of destroyed Russian tanks and other Russian war paraphernalia put on display in central St. Michael’s Square, in front of the majestic golden-domed church honoring the saint.
In a carnival-like atmosphere, people take selfies with the military ruins and hoist children and pets atop the charred tanks. Signs at the site implore other nations to aid Ukraine in its bid to drive back its behemoth neighbor.
“It’s a bit scary, the smell of death,” said Anna Ursu, 22, who came to see the battered tanks Tuesday with her 2-year-old daughter. “At the same time, there is joy that these were destroyed by our defenders. It is because of them that we are able to be here looking at this.”
Accompanying her was a friend, Nadia Reznikova, 23, originally from the battered Luhansk province, which, with Donetsk province, makes up the Donbas.
“Yes, the battle in the east is hard, but I believe Ukraine will triumph, especially if NATO closes the skies,” said Reznikova, referring to a common wish among Ukrainians — that the U.S.-led alliance impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine to thwart Russian air power.
President Joe Biden and other Western leaders have rejected such a move, fearing it would lead to direct fighting between NATO and Russian forces and the possibility of nuclear war.
“We can only hope,” said Reznikova, gazing at the destroyed Russian war machines along with her daughter, 4, as the chimes from nearby St. Michael’s played the Ukrainian national anthem. “I am hopeful we will be victorious.”
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba pleaded for more military aid, saying Ukrainian troops needed multiple-launch rocket systems, long-range artillery and armored personnel carriers.