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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Alamy Stock Photo
War in Ukraine

Zelenskyy cancels planned trips abroad as Russian forces advance on two fronts

Moscow launched a surprise major ground assault on the Kharkiv region last week.

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR Zelenskyy has cancelled planned trips abroad as Russian forces push deeper into the Kharkiv region. 

Russia has also captured the symbolic town of Robotyne further south, one of the only prizes of Ukraine’s underwhelming counteroffensive last summer.

Moscow’s advances on two fronts point to the critical shortages of ammunition and manpower that Kyiv has been struggling with in recent months, during which the Kremlin’s army has steadily eaten away at Ukrainian territory.

“Units of the North group of troops liberated the settlements of Glyboke and Lukyantsi in Kharkiv region and also advanced deep into the enemy defences,” the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.

The defence ministry also said it had captured the southern Ukrainian village of Robotyne, one of only a handful of settlements Kyiv retook at a huge cost in its summer counteroffensive last year.

Zelenskyy visited the village in February and had hailed its capture as a major success in what had otherwise been an operation plagued with setbacks.

Ukraine earlier announced it was pulling some troops back as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was on an unannounced visit to Kyiv where Zelenskyy urged him to speed up the US supplies of weapons.

‘Extremely difficult’ fighting

Moscow launched a surprise major ground assault on the Kharkiv region last week as it seeks to advance across the battlefield with Kyiv struggling for arms and manpower.

A Ukrainian military spokesman appearing on state television conceded earlier today that it had withdrawn troops – including near Lukyantsi – citing overwhelming Russian onslaughts and the need to save the lives of Ukrainian soldiers.

Authorities in another village under attack, Vovchansk, said there was intense street-to-street fighting in the border town that before the war had an estimated population of 20,000 people.

“We are here and are evacuating people and helping them. The situation in Vovchansk is extremely difficult,” police chief Oleksiy Kharkivsky said on social media.

may-14-2024-a-russian-missile-damaged-a-residential-building-in-kharkiv-ukraine-on-may-14-2024-as-russian-forces-continue-their-offensive-in-the-northern-region-credit-image-svet-jacque A Russian missile damaged a residential building in Kharkiv, Ukraine yesterday Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The interior ministry announced that three civilians had been killed in the Kharkiv region over the last 24 hours and the national police said five civilians had been wounded by Russian fire today.

The Ukrainian military said the situation “remains difficult” but insisted its forces were “not allowing the Russian occupiers to gain a foothold”.

Zelenskyy’s office said the president had postponed upcoming trips and reiterated that the military was rushing reinforcements to the area to prevent Russia from punching through.

“Additional forces are being deployed, and there are reserves,” Zelenskyy’s office said.

He had been planning to visit Spain later this week.

‘Difficult’ fighting in east

Some military analysts say Moscow may be trying to force Ukraine to divert troops from other areas of the front line, such as around the strategic town of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region, where Russia has also been advancing.

“Donetsk and Kharkiv regions are where it is most difficult now,” Zelenskyy said in an address yesterday evening.

Blinken’s visit came just weeks after the US Congress finally approved a $61-billion financial aid package for Ukraine following months of political wrangling, unlocking much-needed arms for the country’s outgunned troops.

As his trip got underway yesterday, Russian defence ministry announced that its troops had captured more territory in the Kharkiv region. During a meeting with Blinken, Zelenskyy asked for two more Patriot air-defence systems to defend the border territory.

Some Ukrainians have reacted angrily to a guitar performance by Blinken in a bar in Kyiv last night, chastising Washington’s top diplomat for an ill-judged jam session while troops are fighting in trenches, struggling to hold back a Russian advance amid a shortage of weapons.

u-s-secretary-of-state-antony-blinken-center-walks-in-independence-square-in-kyiv-ukraine-tuesday-may-14-2024-blinken-arrived-in-kyiv-on-tuesday-in-an-unannounced-diplomatic-mission-to-reassur US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, centre, walks in Independence square in Kyiv, Ukraine Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Ukrainian officials have said that more than 30,000 Russian forces have been deployed to the northeastern region but that the regional hub, the country’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, was not threatened by the offensive.

Ukraine also launched aerial attacks on Russia, forcing the closure of two airports in the region of Tatarstan some 1,000km inside Russian territory.

Russian aerial defence systems intercepted and destroyed 17 drones across several border areas, as well as 10 ATACMS missiles over the annexed Crimean peninsula, the defence ministry said.

© AFP 2024