Ukrainian troops take the village of Kharkiv
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Mala Rogan (Ukraine) (AFP) – On the map, it may just be a very small hamlet of a few kilometers and souls. But for the Ukrainian soldiers, it was still more than a small victory.
On Monday, they finished driving Russian troops out of the village on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, as Kyiv forces launch counterattacks against a stalling Russian invasion.
Ukrainian soldiers, blue electrical tape wrapped around the arms of their fatigues, secured destroyed homes in the settlement of Mala Rogan, about five kilometers (three miles) from Kharkiv.
AFP journalists saw what appeared to be the bodies of two Russian soldiers in the streets of the village, which was largely destroyed by the fighting.
The remains of two other soldiers had been thrown into a nearby well, their boots sticking out from under a concrete block.
“It risks contaminating the water,” a Ukrainian soldier told AFP.
“There are Russian corpses everywhere,” he said, adding that more than two dozen soldiers sent to Ukraine from Moscow had been killed in the fight for the hamlet.
AFP journalists also observed the remains of several abandoned Russian armored vehicles in the courtyards of houses in the village.
ten hour battle
Ukraine launched its attack on the Russian-held village last week, but it took several days to root out Muscovite troops hiding in nearby cellars and forests, the army said.
“We each carried 50 kilos of equipment on our backs, we had javelins,” explained Valéry, a sergeant who took part in the operation, referring to American anti-tank weapons.
The 54-year-old electrical engineer from the Kharkiv metro, a veteran of the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan, enlisted just after the Russian invasion on February 24.
“I expected them to hand me a shovel and an old gun, like in Afghanistan, but look,” he said, spreading his arms to show off his gear.
“The battle lasted about 10 hours. We took the Russians by surprise. They were in the basements where they tried to hold out. We gave them a chance to surrender. Too bad for them…”, said Valery with a shrug. .
Nearly 180 Russian soldiers were in the village in total, he said.
“Five of them were captured, one of whom tried to run away and was also killed,” Valery said. Another had served in the Russian contingent in Syria, he added.
“The Russians are sometimes in civilian clothes, they infiltrate our lines,” he said.
“Russian snipers hidden in nearby houses and woods slowed the release,” by Mala Rogan, Valéry added.
They also came under heavy shelling, including phosphorus shells on two occasions.
“It was beautiful all that fire in the night,” joked another soldier.
In Mala Rogan, the situation was relatively calm on Monday, with dull sounds of shelling in the distance.
“Our troops are liberating Mala Rogan, and this is extremely important because Russian troops are constantly shelling residential areas of Kharkiv from there,” mayor of Ukraine’s second most populous city, Igor Terekhov, said earlier.
Oleksiy Arestovich, adviser to the head of the president’s office, said Ukrainian forces were counterattacking against invading Russian troops in the northeast, referring to small tactical offensives.
Moscow’s month-long invasion of its neighbor has largely stalled, with no recent major advances and Ukrainian forces even able to counterattack in spots.
Russian and Ukrainian troops have been fighting for several days for control of the neighboring town of Vilkhivka, a few kilometers further north.
Ukrainian officials have also accused the Russian military of using Vilkhivka as a base to bombard Kharkiv.
“Here we are advancing, but in Vilkhivka we are crawling,” said another soldier.
“We need to finish this quickly, spring is coming and soon it will be time to plant potatoes,” the farmer-soldier said.
© 2022 AFP