KHARKIV, Ukraine — The mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine, is asking residents to leave the city’s underground metro stations, where thousands of people have taken refuge since the Russian invasion began in February.
Mayor Ihor Terekhov said Thursday that the city is now safe enough for residents to leave the metro stations and that rooms in hostels will be offered to anyone who needs them.
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, came under heavy shelling early in the war as Russian forces tried to encircle it. But Ukrainian forces have been gaining ground in Kharkiv in recent days. As of Monday, they had pushed Russian forces within two miles of the Russian border, according to a senior US defense official.
Some shells continue to hit the edges of the city, but the mayor says the situation is much better than it was a couple of weeks ago. Many more people are out on the streets, and buses and trams are running again for the first time since the invasion.
Due to the rapidly improving security situation in the city, Terekhov stated that he will restart four light rail lines, eight trolleybuses and 25 bus routes.
Many of the buses and trams were damaged by Russian bombing and, due to a shortage of replacement glass, some of the vehicles are on the streets with plywood covering their windows.
Beznikov Valeriy, waiting at a bus stop in the city center, says the return of the buses is a beautiful sight. After weeks of being pummeled by Russian attacks, he says ordinary life can now resume in Kharkiv.
“It’s much, much safer,” he said through a translator. “It actually feels good here now.”
But the mood in the heavily bombed city is not entirely festive, and Kharkiv’s metro stations are still packed with people sleeping on platforms and inside carriages.
Some lost their homes to the bombing. Others are too afraid to go home, either out of disbelief that the attacks in Kharkiv have finally slowed down or out of concern that they might pick up again.
But as part of restarting life, the mayor says, it’s time for the subway to resume normal operations, too.