Russia rains attacks on Ukraine’s Kharkiv region after launching offensive

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Photo: AFP

By Barbara WOJAZER AFP

Russia pummelled more than 30 towns and villages in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region after launching a surprise ground offensive over the border last week, the local governor said.

The Ukrainian army acknowledged Russia was “achieving tactical success” after the ground assault, which sparked the evacuation of almost 6,000 people.

Russia’s defence ministry said its troops had “improved the tactical position and dealt a blow to (Ukrainian) manpower” around border villages, including Lyptsi, and the town of Vovchansk.

“They are shelling the villages, firing everything they can,” Sergiy Kryvetchenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian military administration in the village of Lyptsi, told AFP.

“The KABs (guided aerial bombs) are flying. The artillery is flying. Drones. Everything,” he said.

Russia began an offensive across the border into the Kharkiv region on Friday and later claimed to have taken several villages.

The situation in Kharkiv is “complex and dynamically changing”, with Russian troops mounting assaults in various areas, Ukraine’s army said.

Kharkiv regional governor Oleg Synegubov wrote on social media that over the last day, “more than 30” towns and villages “were struck by enemy artillery and mortar attacks”, wounding at least nine people.

Some areas were also bombed by Russian aircraft, Synegubov said, adding that 5,762 people had been evacuated from their homes since the start of the offensive.

Russia “carried out 22 assaults” in five border areas on Sunday, 14 of which were still ongoing, the Ukrainian army said.

It reported fighting in the border town of Vovchansk, where Russia was deploying “significant forces”, numbering up to five battalions.

Vovchansk, which previously had a population of 2,500 but now has only 200-300 residents, suffered “massive shelling” on Sunday, said Synegubov.

Ukraine separately launched drone strikes on western Russia, a security source in Kyiv told AFP, hitting an oil terminal in the Belgorod border region and an electrical substation in the Lipetsk region.

Regional authorities in the Kursk border region of Russia said one woman had been killed and three others wounded when a drone struck several cars.

Kyiv and Moscow have been targeting each other’s energy infrastructure and Ukraine’s generation facilities have been severely damaged.

Ukraine also struck the Lugansk region of eastern Ukraine under Russia’s control, according to a Moscow-appointed official.

An industrial zone of the town of Sorokyne, known as Krasnodon in Russian, killed three and injured four, said Russia-appointed governor Leonid Pasechnik.

– ‘Expanding’ front line –

In the Kharkiv region, “the grey zone and the front line are expanding” because Russia is “trying to deliberately stretch it, attacking in small groups in new directions”, governor Synegubov said on national television.

The DeepState Telegram channel, which is close to the Ukrainian army, said Russia had taken  territory measuring some 100 square kilometres (39 square miles).

Russia “continues to advance to Vovchansk”, the channel said, adding: “They are gaining foothold on the outskirts for further entry into the town.”

Russia was also advancing towards the border village of Lyptsi and trying to enter the nearby village of Glyboke, it said.

Ukraine was mounting “constant fire”, including from drones, “but unfortunately it does not stop them”.

The Russian defence ministry said troops had repelled Ukrainian counter-attacks near Glyboke.

Rybar, a Russian Telegram channel with military links, said Moscow’s offensive led to territorial gains because troops took some villages where Russian soldiers already had a presence and others that were “deserted wastelands”.

As of Monday morning, there were no “large-scale breakthroughs of the enemy’s defences”, Rybar said.

Ukrainian military said Russia was also shelling the Sumy and Chernigiv border regions further west.

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