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Kharkiv Sister City president reflects on the 1 year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine

A man passes by a destroyed building following a Russian attack, in center Kharkiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 24, 2022.
Efrem Lukatsky
A man passes by a destroyed building following a Russian attack, in center Kharkiv, Ukraine, Thursday, March 24, 2022.

Members of the Cincinnati-Kharkiv Sister City Partnership have spent the last year drumming up support for the Ukrainian city. Since the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, the group's president says they've talked at high schools, before Cincinnati City Council, hosted a delegation from Kharkiv, and raised money to buy winter clothing and generators.

Bob Herring says it's strengthened the nearly 34-year-old relationship with Kharkiv.

"Prior to the war, if you had been on Fountain Square and asked the first 10 people you came across 'Can you name one of Cincinnati’s sister cities?' probably none of them would have been able to name more than one and probably not Kharkiv," he says. "There's an increased awareness and I think understanding and support for the sister city partnership with Kharkiv."

Herring says Kharkiv is not immediately threatened, but Ukrainians are bracing for an expected Russian offensive this spring.

He says a number of his counterparts evacuated, but the partnership is still in touch with the Kharkiv Red Cross and says they haven't given up.

"They are optimistic. I don't know that they're happy to fight, but they will not lay down their arms. They are not giving up. They are not, at this point, willing to negotiate transfer of Ukrainian territory to Russia on a permanent basis," he says. "They want their country back. They want it whole, they want it free. And they want to be aligned with the West."

Herring says the Kharkiv Red Cross was recently informed many members who had been exempt for military service will soon be eligible for the draft because the Ukrainian Army needs soldiers.

He says he believes Ukraine will be successful in driving out Russian forces and wants Cincinnati to be a part of the nation's rebuilding.

"Pre-pandemic, runners came from Kharkiv and ran in our Flying Pig Marathon. Our brainstorm-dream idea is let’s get a bunch of runners from Cincinnati to go over to the Kharkiv Marathon, when it's up and running, when it's safe to go, and just show support for the people of Kharkiv."

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion. Herring will update City Council Wednesday on the partnership's efforts in the last year. He says there's a candlelight vigil Friday night at the Wyoming Presbyterian Church.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.