Russian forces attack Ukraine's Kharkiv region, opening new front

Russian forces launched an armored ground attack near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, on Friday.

Publication: 10.05.2024 - 17:02
Russian forces attack Ukraine's Kharkiv region, opening new front
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They made slight advancements, marking the opening of a new front in a conflict previously concentrated in the east and south. As battles intensified along the region's border areas, Ukraine dispatched reinforcements, the defense ministry reported. The town of Vovchansk suffered heavy damage from Russian guided aerial bombs and artillery.

"Russia has initiated a new phase of counteroffensive actions in this area," said President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a press conference in Kyiv. He described the situation as a "fierce battle."

Ukraine had previously indicated a Russian military buildup in the area, suggesting either preparations for an offensive or a strategy to divert and engage Ukraine's already stretched and outnumbered defenders. The potential for Moscow to escalate the attack remains uncertain.

Zelenskiy has suggested that Russia might be gearing up for a significant offensive this spring or summer. Although Ukrainian forces were ready for Friday's attack, there is a possibility that Moscow might deploy additional troops.

"The enemy tried to breach our defenses using armored vehicles at about 5 a.m.," the defense ministry stated. "These attacks have been repelled, and battles of varying intensity are ongoing."

Kharkiv region's governor noted that the extensive border and the settlements there form a "grey zone," confirming that active fighting is ongoing. A senior Ukrainian military source, who wished to remain anonymous, mentioned that Russian forces had advanced about 1 km (0.6 mile) into Ukrainian territory near Vovchansk. The source added that the Russian goal is to push Ukrainian troops back by up to 10 km to establish a buffer zone, but Ukrainian forces are resisting.

Heavy shelling in border settlements resulted in at least two civilian deaths and five injuries, according to Oleh Synehubov, Kharkiv region's governor. "The enemy is limited to attacking in small groups, which could be termed sabotage and reconnaissance groups, to probe our military positions," he explained on television.

In Vovchansk, the population of which has significantly decreased from its pre-war figure of 17,000, authorities are aiding civilian evacuations due to intense shelling. Following a Ukrainian counteroffensive last year, Russian forces had been temporarily pushed out of most of the Kharkiv region. However, after enduring Ukrainian resistance, they are now gradually advancing in the Donetsk region further south.

Concerns escalated in March when Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the creation of a buffer zone within Ukrainian territory, claiming it was necessary to shield Russia from shelling and border incursions. Since then, Kharkiv has faced relentless air strikes, severely impacting the region's power infrastructure.

More than two years into the conflict, Russia maintains momentum on the battlefield, while Ukraine contends with shortages of manpower and essential supplies like artillery shells and air defenses.

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