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‘This is horror’: Wu hears details of suffering on call with mayor of Ukrainian city

An apartment building was destroyed after shelling earlier this week in Kharkiv.SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images

Amid a brutal Russian siege, the mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city implored Mayor Michelle Wu of Boston to lobby the local federal delegation to continue to apply pressure on Russia during a Thursday morning call.

“Today, Kharkiv is suffering,” Mayor Ihor Terekhov told Wu through an interpreter on the call, comparing the destruction in his city to the Sept. 11 attacks.

People, he said, are dying every day. Children have been killed in the war.

“This is horror,” he said during the half-hour call.

Terekhov spoke of the constant bombardment from Russian forces. He said some substations supplying water and heat have been destroyed. Twenty-seven schools in the city have been destroyed. Many residents have lost their homes and are sleeping in shelters and schools. Cold weather has exacerbated the crisis. Municipal services like waste management continue despite the carnage, he said.


Terekhov implored Wu to push the local congressional delegation to continue sanctioning Russia. He also emphasized the importance of humanitarian aid, saying his city needs special equipment to help clean up the destruction from Russian bombing. He mentioned possible governmental cooperation in the city’s recovery.

Wu told Terekhov she was “deeply devastated” to hear directly what Kharkiv is going through. She noted they shared the same birthday and that they were sworn in around the same time, adding his mayoral tenure “should be counted as an eternity for all that you have had to shoulder.”

Wu wished Terekhov safety and peace and said she would use “every possible tool that we can to be in support.” Her administration is working to figure out a way to send supplies and humanitarian relief to Ukraine, she said.

“When — not if, but when — you triumph, we will be there as a partner,” she said.

Terekhov said the only goal of city residents was “to stay alive and to win.”


“We will obviously win but we need strong international support,” he said.

He said he looked forward to inviting Wu to Kharkiv after the war.

The call between the two mayors of cities located 4,700 miles apart came as Russian forces intensified their siege of Ukrainian cities Thursday, even as the top foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine met for the first time since the war began. The meeting in Turkey produced no breakthrough on ending the war.

Russia’s military is struggling more than expected, but Putin’s invading force of more than 150,000 troops retains possibly insurmountable advantages in firepower as it bears down on key cities.

Despite often heavy shelling on populated areas, American military officials reported little change on the ground over the previous 24 hours, other than Russian progress against the cities of Kharkiv and Mykolaiv.

Kharkiv, home to 1.5 million people, is located in the northeastern part of the country.

Last week, the human rights group Amnesty International released an analysis of recent Russian strikes in Kharkiv, alleging that Russia committed possible war crimes.

The analysis included a 3-D model of targeted areas in Kharkiv overlaid with images and video of an attack. Amnesty International also said it collected witness statements.

Amnesty said verified video shows evidence of the use of cluster munitions, which are weapons that open midair and disperse smaller bombs that strike multiple targets at once, indiscriminately. A still image taken from video shows several explosions going off at once, an indication of their use.


Cluster munitions are particularly dangerous in residential areas as unexploded bombs can pose a danger long after the initial attack. According to the Associated Press, some formerly war-torn countries spend years trying to clear unexploded cluster bomblets.

Such weapons are banned in many countries, though not in Russia or Ukraine.

In one distressing video, bodies of people in civilian clothing were seen splayed on the street next to large bottles of water. Another video Amnesty International said was taken in a residential area shows frightened people screaming and fleeing as loud blasts are heard in the background. Amnesty said the blast came from a Russian 300mm Smerch rocket.

Still another Smerch rocket attack hit a shopping center, Amnesty said.

Christina Prignano of Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press and The New York Times was also used.

Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.