Kharkiv residents return as 'Ukrainians force Russian soldiers out' after weeks of fighting

The scars of weeks of war may be clear to see across the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, but residents are returning hopeful they can find some normality in the place that was once their home.

In a special eyewitness report from inside Kharkiv, ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers and ITV News Editor Jonathan Wald journeyed to Ukraine’s second city with the soldiers that helped liberate it

The battle for Kharkiv is a remarkable turnaround in the military fortunes of Ukraine.

When we first visited the city the day its main civil administration building was hit by a Russian Kalibre cruise missile, it felt like it would fall within days.

Almost encircled by its Russian enemy, Kharkiv’s residents were being pummelled daily by grad rockets and artillery.

But today, people in the city centre are enjoying their sixth straight day without a strike, Igor Tereshkova, the Mayor of Kharkiv told us.

"Citizens are coming back"

The Ukrainian “Kraken” battalion is part of the reason the Russians have been so comprehensively beaten back here.

We’ve been given previously unseen footage which provides a window into the battle for Ukraine’s second city.

It looks like a video game, but this has been the reality for troops on the frontline here for almost three months. It shows a ferocious gun battle for the village of Ruska Lozova, just outside the city’s ring road.

ITV News obtained previously unseen footage of Ukrainian soldiers batting away Russian troops in the city. Credit: ITV News

We travelled with the Kraken unit into the same village as Russian artillery continue to hammer what’s left.

They came to treat 87-year-old Ivan Gavrilovich, who knows firsthand what razor sharp shrapnel can do to the human body. They treat a nasty gash on his calf, sustained 10 days ago when artillery shells exploded in his vegetable patch.

As the soldiers patch him up he tells me how an SS officer nearly killed him as a child in 1941, and remarks on the irony of now surviving another invasion eight decades later.

“My nerves are strong - if I grab them (Russians), they won’t escape my grip," he tells us.

Ivan tells how an SS officer nearly killed him as a child in 1941 - and eight decades later lived through another invasion. Credit: ITV News

Across the street lie the remains of a hospital looted by the Russians as they retreated. A large unexploded shell rests precariously on the stairs.

But now Ukrainian soldiers are more certain of destroying their targets. We received video showing a Russian T90m tank being taken out north of Kharkiv by a Western-supplied anti-tank weapon.

The Russians had hoped this more modern variant of tank with its extra armour would resist the Javelins and British NLAWs now being used by the Ukrainians. They were wrong.

Normally an invading army tries to secure bridges as it advances, but on the main road towards the border, the Russians blew one up as they fled a rapidly pursuant Ukrainian force.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know

We travelled along the deserted ring road which marked the extent of the Russian advance and their military misadventure here is plain to see.

We find a T72 with its turret lying some distance from the rest of the vehicle. Another victim of a Javelin missile.

But while the battle here seems over, it’s not completely safe. This road is still within range of Russian missiles. We spot a Russian reconnaissance drone above us and panic ensues, amid concerns it may be relaying live targeting information.

Ukrainians attempted to shoot down the Russian drone following the ITV News crew and Ukrainian soldiers. Credit: ITV News

We alert the nearby Ukrainian soldiers who try to shoot it down. It’s not easy and they miss their target. As we escape the scene, concerned the drone is being used to direct an imminent missile strike, it appears to follow us along the road.

Thankfully we finally outrun it, and return to the relative safety of the city centre.

These days the centre of Kharkiv is much safer than its northern suburbs, but it still bears the scars of almost three months of siege. The Mayor of Kharkiv tells me he estimates 30% of residential buildings in the city have been damaged.

Though signs of normality are returning, the scars of the war are clear to see across the city. Credit: ITV News

But there are many areas which thankfully appear untouched by this war, and there are some signs of ordinary life returning. In the large park off Freedom Square, people are returning to walk their dog or exercise.

Air raid sirens are common but compared to a few weeks ago, Kharkiv is a different city. Like Kyiv before it, it confounded the experts who thought it would crumble in the face of the Russian army.

Now the focus of this war will shift further east, to towns and cities in the Donbas.

Suddenly Ukrainians are beginning to wonder if their victory might not just be confined to the Eurovision Song Contest.