Russia could try to occupy the industrial city of Kharkiv if it takes military action in Ukraine, and that would be the start of a “full-scale war”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the Washington Post.
The country, ruled by Vladimir Putin, has tens of thousands of troops close to its border with Ukraine. Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine, is the second largest city in the former Soviet republic and is 42 kilometers from the border.
“I will say realistically, if Russia decides to increase its escalation, of course they will do so in territories where historically there are people who used to have family ties to Russia,” Zelenskiy said.
“Kharkiv, which is under the control of the Ukrainian government, could be occupied. Russia needs a pretext: they will say they are protecting the Russian-speaking population.”
He said he believed this scenario was “viable” after Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. “It won’t just be an occupation; it will be the start of a full-scale war,” he said.
Russia, which has tens of thousands of troops close to the border, has denied planning to attack Ukraine.
Kharkiv has a population of around 1.4 million. It was the capital of Ukraine from 1919 to 1933, when it was part of the Soviet Union, and is home to tank and tractor factories, as well as electronics producers.
“I want to assure all residents of Kharkiv that the city is ready to firmly reject a potential invader, we have all the strength to defend Kharkiv,” the city’s mayor, Ihor Terekhov, said on Facebook.
Reference: CNN Brasil