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Russia attacks Ukraine’s northeast in new ground offensive

Russia launches ground offensive Kharkiv
Image: Pixabay

Russia launched a surprise ground offensive into Ukraine’s northeast Kharkiv region on Friday, making small advances into a border zone it was pushed back from nearly two years ago.

Civilians were told to flee and heavy fighting was reported as Ukraine’s outgunned army rushed in reinforcements to defend the region, which has been mostly under Ukrainian control since September 2022.

“Russia launched a new wave of counter-offensive actions in this area. Ukraine met them there with our troops, brigades and artillery … Now there is a fierce battle under way in this area,” President Volodymyr Zelensky told a briefing.

A high-ranking Ukrainian military source said Russia had advanced into Ukraine by one kilometre (0.6 miles) and was trying to “create a buffer zone” in both the Kharkiv and neighbouring Sumy regions to prevent attacks into Russian territory.

If the advance is confirmed, it would represent the Kremlin’s biggest land operation in that part of the battlefield since it sent thousands of troops across the border in February 2022.

Officials in Kyiv had for weeks warned Moscow might try and attack its northeastern border regions, pressing its advantage as Ukraine struggles with delays in Western aid and manpower shortages.

Ukraine’s military said it had halted Russia in its tracks but that “fighting of varying intensity” was ongoing.

“Reserve units have been deployed to strengthen the defence in this area of the front,” it said.

Russia launched the attack around 5:00 am (0200 GMT), breaking through Ukraine’s lines under the cover of armoured vehicles, according to Kyiv.

The Russian defence ministry has not provided any comment but military bloggers reported Moscow had made inroads.

“Active fighting is currently taking place in settlements one to two kilometres from the border with Russia. We urge people to evacuate in this area,” regional governor Oleg Synegubov said.


– ‘Massive shelling’ –


A local official said there was “massive shelling” in Vovchansk, a town of about 3,000 people some five kilometres (three miles) from the Russian border, and that evacuations were under way there and in nearby areas.

At least two people were killed in Russian shelling of the region on Friday, authorities said.

“Enemy shelling from various types of weapons has been intensifying in Kharkiv region in the northern area for the last day,” Synegubov wrote on Telegram.

“Evacuation routes have been developed since 2022, and a system of humanitarian aid distribution, temporary resettlement,” he said.

Vitaliy Ganchev, a Russian-installed official for the Kharkiv region, confirmed there was fighting near the border and urged civilians to take shelter.

“There is fighting on several parts of the line of contact, including in the border areas of Kharkiv region,” he said on Telegram.

“In this regard, I ask residents living in these areas to be careful and not to leave shelters without an urgent need,” he added.

Russia claimed to have captured at least two villages in the region this week, pressing its advantage against outgunned and outmanned Ukrainian troops.

President Vladimir Putin warned in March he was considering creating a “sanitary zone” in Ukrainian territory adjoining Belgorod, a Russian region frequently targeted by Ukrainian shelling.

Ukrainian shelling on Russian border villages killed at least two people on Thursday, the governors of Russia’s Belgorod and Kursk border regions said.

Pro-Ukrainian militias also claimed earlier this year to have stormed Russia’s frontier in a series of brazen raids, a source of embarrassment for the Kremlin.


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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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