As Republicans look poised to take the U.S. House of Representatives, one Ukrainian general is calling for unity in Congress after he took back Kharkiv from invading Russian forces in one of the most brutal battlefronts in Europe since World War II.
The U.S. has provided $18.6 billion in security assistance since the war in Ukraine began on Feb. 24 – including arms Ukrainian forces relied on in their major counteroffensive in the northern region earlier this year.
The head of the Kharkiv military garrison, Brigadier General of Justice Serhiy Mykolayovych Melnyk, has seen firsthand the impact that a unified response from international allies can have in the war against Russia.
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Ukrainian forces in Kharkiv were immediately engaged in a brutal battle over the northern region following the invasion and before Western aid could be delivered in full effect. However, despite the challenges his forces faced, Melnyk’s troops earned near-instant notoriety.
“Since the beginning of the war, the city has been nicknamed Stalingrad 2022,” he told WHD News in an interview from Kharkiv. “We have survived, we are still standing and will continue to stand.”
The regional capital city was given the honorary title of “Hero City” by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in early March – a reference to a Soviet tradition following World War II – for its swift response to Russia’s invasion.
Though Melnyk’s forces successfully blocked Russian troops from occupying Ukraine’s second-largest city, located just 25-miles from Russia, the region’s shared border meant heavy fight began at the onslaught of the invasion.
“It cannot be said that the Russian side did not give them adequate support. It’s just that the defense of Kharkiv itself was drilled very correctly,” Commander Roman Hryshchenko told WHD News, championing Melnyk’s leadership.
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The commander, whose call sign is “Uncle Roma,” leads the 127th Brigade of the Territorial Defense Forces which ousted Russia from Kharkiv – a success story that has made his brigade legendary across Ukraine as 70% of his fighting force consists of soldiers who were civilians before Russia’s invasion.
“Thanks to our Western partners, the USA, Great Britain, Poland, and many others, we managed to accumulate a certain amount of weapons – the minimum that would allow us to carry out planned counter-offensive operations,” the commander explained.
“Uncle Roma” told WHD News that even with the substantial international support Ukraine has received it is not enough and noted his brigade was forced to rely on heavy weaponry it took from retreating Russian troops in Kharkiv.
Though Washington’s support for Ukraine has largely been bipartisan, House Republicans sparked concern ahead of the U.S. midterms when Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the GOP would not write a “blank check” to Kyiv if it won control over the lower chamber.
Similarly, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said in the lead up to the election that “under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine.”
“Our country comes first,” she added.
The Ukrainian brigadier general expressed his gratitude for the support the U.S. has provided but argued that some lawmakers do not understand the brutality of the war. “You need to come here and see. To look into the eyes of mothers, children who have been orphaned,” he said.
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Melnyk described a gut-wrenching experience he had while helping people evacuate on buses and said he witnessed people’s dogs “standing and crying on their hind legs” as owners and pets alike begged for their evacuation.
“It is very hard,” he said. “The enemy must be defeated.”
“Only by unity we will save the world,” the brigadier general said in reference to Russian threats to employ nuclear warfare. “Let’s act together to make the regime of the tyrant, terrorist, fall.”