Local officials in the Kharkiv region said the Ukrainian flag was raised in settlements near the Russian border, confirming the continued withdrawal of Russian forces in the area.
Oleksandr Kulik, an official in Derhachi northeast of the city of Kharkiv, said the Ukrainian flag was raised by local residents in the town of Kozacha Lopan.
Kozacha Lopan has been occupied by the Russians since March and is an administrative center for the occupation authorities. It is five kilometers from the Russian border and was extensively damaged during the conflict.
Social media video provided by Derhachi city council also showed residents of another settlement — Tokarivka — raising the Ukrainian flag there. Tokarovka is also close to the Russian border.
Viktoriya Kolodochka, the head of the Tokarivka district, said on Sunday: “The village was evacuated in the morning. People heard the roar of Russian military equipment. The Russians began to gather themselves in the morning and began run away.”
Kolodochka, who is not in the town but has contacts there, told CNN by phone that the Russians had left a lot of ammunition.
He also mentioned the months under work, which he described as “very scary.” He said the occupying troops were from the Luhansk People’s militia, which he said were acting like gangsters. They searched for people who had been in the security force, confiscated phones and ransacked houses. He said they also beat and intimidated local residents.
“They took people to the basement of the school, beat them, electrocuted them, forced them to dig ditches, forced them to give information about people who worked for Ukrainian state bodies. But they didn’t kill anyone,” he told CNN.
Kolodochka said there was no humanitarian aid until August when the occupying forces provided some sugar and flour. He said people survived mainly on their own garden produce. He said he left town in April, but his parents stayed.
“Some people are left behind [in Tokarivka] who are very, very much waiting for our military,” she said. “People really need help. There are ten paralyzed old women. There are people with diabetes and asthma. They live as best they can. Medicines are much needed.”
As for those who died during the occupation, Kolodochka told CNN: “Some people were buried in their yards – we just buried them in their yards.”
He added that there is still great uncertainty about what will happen. “People are still afraid. Will they stop shooting? Is it true that the Russians have left? Or not? They are waiting too long for the Ukrainian military.”
But he insisted: “We will survive everything to be at home.”