North of Kharkiv, where Ukrainian territory has been liberated all the way to the Russian border, locals describe the occupying aggressors as having been thieves. Collaborators have been promised retribution in accordance with Ukrainian law.
Russian forces retreated from Kozacha Lopan, a settlement connected to Kharkiv via a narrow asphalt road, overnight into September 11. Ukrainian territory north of Kharkiv was cleared all the way to the border — although that doesn't mean that things are quiet there now.
Kozacha Lopan is located just 2-3 kilometers from the Russian border, leaving it within range of Russian fire, and the sound of gunfire there is constant.
"Russian forces are constantly firing mortars at our border settlements, especially at Kozacha Lopan, and our forces are responding in kind," Oleksandr Kulik, press secretary for the Derhachi region, told ERR.
Only some 1,000 of the settlement's original 5,000 residents remain. A Russian flag lies abandoned on the ground in front of the local administrative building.
"They robbed us, beat us, stole from us," local resident Viktor recalled. "There was no power; it was cold. We lived in the basement."
"They came in like fascists," Ljudmilla said. "After that we weren't allowed to leave our homes; we went out with permits. They took our phones away, as my son is serving in the army. Phones were taken away — people had their cars, washing machines, TVs, tablets taken away. They were told that these things would be brought back, but nothing was."
"We didn't think that a sister and brother, two brothers that have always gotten along amicably... that there would be an occupation, a war," Aleksandra admitted. "To tell you the truth, we were in shock."
Locals that collaborated with occupying forces have since fled to Russia.
"There was a so-called people's militia here, a humanitarian aid headquarters directed by locals, and then there was a so-called leader of Kozacha Lopan, appointed to their position by Russia, who was likewise a local," Kulik explained.
Editor: Aili Vahtla