May 22, 2024

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War in Ukraine, day 809 | Moscow says it is gaining ground in the Kharkiv region

War in Ukraine, day 809 |  Moscow says it is gaining ground in the Kharkiv region

Russia said on Sunday it was advancing in the Kharkiv region (northeast of Ukraine), saying it was seizing four additional areas near the border as part of an offensive that began on Friday, leading to the evacuation of thousands of civilians.

“Defensive battles and heavy fighting continue along most of our border,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy summed up. “The expansion of our forces and demoralization are behind the attacks in the Kharkiv region” by the Ukrainian military.

“All parts of the northern border are under attack by the enemy almost 24 hours a day,” Kharkiv region governor Oleg Sinekobov said on social media.

“A total of 4,073 people were evacuated,” he wrote, a day after Russian forces said they captured five villages in the region on Saturday.

Photo by Vyacheslav Matievsky, Reuters

Rescue workers tend to injured Ukrainian soldier

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that it had captured four additional areas very close to the border in the region, home to Ukraine’s second city.

Before the attack, Mr. Current said artillery fire killed a 63-year-old man in the village of Klaipok on Sunday and wounded a 38-year-old man in the border town of Vovsansk, which has a population of 3,000.

AFP saw people being evacuated near Vovchansk on Sunday, most of them elderly and disoriented.

“We are not ready to leave. Home is home,” said 72-year-old Lyoda Zelenskaya, holding her cat Zora. Like her, 70-year-old Lyuba Konovalova recalled the “terrifying night” before they were evicted. After the children left, the two lived together.

According to Oleksi├» Karkivsky, the Vovchansk police officer mobilized for the evacuations, “several” people died in Saturday’s blasts and the body of another was found under the rubble during the night. “The city is constantly on fire,” he said. “Artillery, mortar, the enemy is attacking with everything they have.”

According to him, around 1,500 people have been evacuated since Friday from the city, which was hit by 32 drone strikes in the past 24 hours. Governor Sinekopov estimated that Vovsansk still had 500 inhabitants.

A “significantly deteriorated” situation

Kharkiv region police chief Volodymyr Tymochko said Vovsansk was under attack from three sides and Russian troops were on its outskirts. “Despite active fighting, the police continue to evacuate people,” he told AFP at the evacuation site.

Oleksandr Chirsky, the chief of staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, assured that “attempts to break through our defenses have ceased”, but he admitted that the situation in the Kharkiv region had “deteriorated significantly” and was “complicated”. Ukrainian forces are “doing everything they can to maintain their defense lines and inflict damage on the enemy,” he said.

As for the country’s second city, its mayor, Igor Derekov, declared that “Kharkiv is calm, despite all the events in the region, and we don’t see people leaving.”

Officials in Kyiv have warned for weeks that Moscow could try to attack the northeastern border areas as Ukraine faces delays in Western aid and troop shortages.

8 people died in Belgorod

Ukrainian forces, for their part, have stepped up strikes inside Russia and in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, particularly against energy infrastructure.

On Sunday, eight people died when an apartment building partially collapsed in Belgorod, near the Ukrainian border, after being hit by a Ukrainian missile intercepted by anti-aircraft defenses, according to emergency services. About twenty people were injured.

A Ukrainian drone caused a fire at the site of the Volgograd refinery (southern Russia) from Saturday to Sunday, and the governor of the region of the same name, Andrey Potsarov, assured that the fire was extinguished and there were no casualties.

Reuters photo

Rescuers search for survivors after part of a multi-storey building collapsed in Belgorod on May 12.

The Russian Defense Ministry, for its part, said a total of eight Ukrainian drones were intercepted overnight, including one “over the border of the Volgograd region”, without further details.

Owned by giant Lukoil, the refinery claims on its website that it is “the largest producer of petroleum products in the Southern Federal District,” which unites eight oblasts in southwestern Russia.

The site was already the target of a Ukrainian drone strike in early February, with no casualties.

Kyiv says it is responding to attacks by the Russian military against civilian bases, starting with its energy infrastructure.

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