Ukraine withdraws its forces near Kharkiv, and Russia enters Vovchansk in a new offensive

The new Russian offensive gained momentum Wednesday around Ukraine’s second-largest city, in the latest blow to Kiev as it struggles to contain this new front in the war after delaying crucial military aid from the United States.

Even as Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the country to reassure it of allied support and announce a new $2 billion arms deal, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky canceled all upcoming foreign trips — a sign of how seriously the country takes the Russian military’s advance.

The Ukrainian military said it had withdrawn some of its forces from more areas around the northeastern city of Kharkiv, while local officials said Russian forces had taken up positions inside the key frontline town of Vovchansk.

It’s part of a new armored offensive launched by Russia last week, which threatens to strain the Ukrainian military to the breaking point. Kiev fears Moscow will also mobilize its forces to carry out new border incursions elsewhere.

The delay in new American support provided the Kremlin with an opportunity to launch a summer offensive that threatened to make decisive gains on the battlefield while its forces bombarded Kharkiv from the air.

A woman inspects the damage to an apartment complex near Kharkiv on Tuesday after Russian airstrikes hit Ukraine’s second-largest city. Vlada Liberova/Lipkus via Getty Images

Ukraine has sent reinforcements to defend the area along its northern border, from which thousands of residents have been evacuated since the attack began last Friday.

But late Tuesday, she said some forces would have to withdraw.

“Due to the impact of fire and offensive actions of the enemy, and in order to save the lives of our soldiers and avoid losses, the units carried out a maneuver and moved to more advantageous positions,” the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Facebook.

See also  Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia says 100,000 refugees have fled the region

Zelensky had previously said that Russia was planning to launch a major attack this summer. Western military analysts agree that Moscow stumbled badly during the early stages of the war, but it has since reversed this trend and strengthened its position.

Russian forces attacking Ukraine have swelled to more than 500,000 troops, a significant numerical advantage over their neighbors, according to Jack Watling, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based think tank.

It was not clear whether the new northeastern thrust was Russia’s main effort or an attempt to move encircled Ukrainian forces away from other areas of tension to the south and east.

“Russia’s goal is not to achieve a major breakthrough, but to convince Ukraine that it can continue its stubborn advance, kilometer by kilometer, along the front,” Watling said in an email.

In Vovchansk, 3 miles from the Russian border, the city’s police chief, Oleksiy Kharkovsky, posted a video in which fierce fighting could be heard nearby. He added: “The situation is very difficult.” “The enemy takes up positions in the streets.”

The Ukrainian army later said its soldiers had “partially expelled” Russian forces from the town.

Local officials said that more than 7,500 people had been evacuated from nearby border areas in the Kharkiv region.

The matter may not stop there.

Ukrainian officials also expect Russia to launch a “strong offensive” westward in the Sumy region, Ukrainian military intelligence chief Kirilo Budanov said. He told the New York Times.

While fighting raged in the northeast, in the capital, Kiev, Blinken was trying to reassure his hosts.

See also  Thousands of Israelis march to an illegal outpost in the West Bank as tensions rise

“We know that this is a difficult time,” he said on Tuesday after his meeting with Zelensky.

While in town, Blinken, an avid guitarist, joined a Ukrainian band on stage to play Neil Young’s classic rock song, “Rockin’ in the Free World.”

Despite the approval of US aid, and Blinken’s promises that supplies have arrived or are imminent, Zelensky said more needs to be done, especially in the field of air defense.

“The time gap between the announcement of the packages and the actual appearance of weapons on the front line is very large,” he said in an evening speech.

In a sign of how seriously Ukraine takes Russia’s new approach, Zelensky canceled a planned trip to Spain and Portugal this week, where he was expected to sign a bilateral defense agreement.

The view from Moscow is that Blinken’s surprise visit is another sign of concern from Kiev and Washington.

“It is clear that the situation on the front and the military failures of the Ukrainian army raise increasingly serious concerns in the Biden administration,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a Wednesday press conference.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on Thursday. The two announced a “borderless” partnership days before Putin launched his all-out invasion in February 2022.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *