June 16, 2024

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Ukraine: Attack on Kharkiv region could be first wave of Russian attack

Ukraine: Attack on Kharkiv region could be first wave of Russian attack

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ruled in an exclusive interview with AFP on Friday that the offensive launched by Russia against the Kharkiv region could only be the first wave of a wider attack, and that Moscow wants to “attack” the eponymous regional capital.

• Read more: Putin justifies his major offensive in northeastern Ukraine

• Read more: NATO says Russia doesn’t have enough forces to make major advances in Ukraine

“They have started their operation, which may have several waves. It is their first wave,” the Ukrainian president assured, while Russia made its biggest territorial gains since the end of 2022.

Yet despite Russian advances in recent days in this northeastern region, he assured his forces that the situation was better than a week ago, when Kremlin troops surprised him by crossing the border on May 10.

“They are at most 5-10 km from the border and we stopped them […] I wouldn’t call it a big hit [russe], but we have to calm down and admit that it is they who are trespassing on our territory, not us. It is to their advantage,” he noted.

According to him, the situation is still not “stabilized”. “However, the situation is under control and better than the first day,” he said.

According to him, Russia wants to attack the country’s second city, Kharkiv, only a few dozen kilometers from the front. Moscow has already failed to take it in 2022 and Vladimir Putin said on Friday he had no intention of attacking it.

The Ukrainian president promised that a battle for the city would be difficult for the Russian army.

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“They want it, they want to attack,” he said, but “they understand it’s an uphill battle. It’s a big city, we have troops, and they understand it’s going to be a long fight.

It’s now a matter of not exposing the weakness of Ukraine and its Western allies, so the president said two patriotic anti-aircraft systems are needed to protect the region’s skies and the soldiers who defend them.

“They are like an animal […] If they feel weakness in this direction, they will push,” Mr. Zelensky warned, but if Ukrainian troops can hold off Russia, he will give up. “They are not going to die by the millions, and in my opinion, Kharkiv should.”

Officially, the Russian attack, Mr. According to Putin, it aims to create a buffer zone on the Russian border that will prevent Ukrainian attacks.

Moscow’s forces are trying to take advantage of the manpower and weapons shortages Ukraine faces after two years of war.