Kharkiv today is hard to compare to the one of late February. Then, the separatist scenario seemed very real: Russian flags had showed up here first, some time before they did in Slavyansk, Donetsk, and Luhansk, today's rebel strongholds. There was also much that bound the city to Russia. Most of the city's 1.5 million citizens identify closely with Russia, the language, and with family and friends who live just across the border. The city has strong bilateral trade, political, educational and cultural links with Russia, not to mention its shifty role as a gateway for drugs and contraband.