La Gaceta De Mexico - Ukraine trying to 'stabilise' front as Russia pushes northeast

Ukraine trying to 'stabilise' front as Russia pushes northeast
Ukraine trying to 'stabilise' front as Russia pushes northeast / Photo: © AFP

Ukraine trying to 'stabilise' front as Russia pushes northeast

Ukraine said Thursday it was trying to "stabilise" the front line in the northeast Kharkiv region, where Moscow has made its largest territorial gains in 18 months after launching a fast-moving offensive last week.

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President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv was sending yet more reinforcements to the area, and the Ukrainian army said it had managed to partially halt Russia's advance.

But the head of the Kharkiv region said Moscow had gained ground near the border village of Lyptsi and had "not given up" capturing the town of Vovchansk, another fighting hotspot.

"Our task at the moment is to stabilise the front line," said governor Oleg Synegubov.

Kyiv also accused Russian troops of executing civilians in territory it had captured, and of using some civilians left behind in Vovchansk as "human shields".

The fresh Russian offensive has further stretched Ukraine's outgunned and outmanned forces.

Moscow has seized 278 square kilometres (107 square miles) of Ukrainian territory between May 9 and 15, according to AFP calculations based on data from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) -- the largest territorial gain in a single operation since mid-December 2022.

- 'Extremely difficult' -

Zelensky on Thursday met military leaders in Kharkiv city, some 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the Russian border to assess Ukraine's defensive efforts.

"The situation in the Kharkiv region is generally under control, and our soldiers are inflicting significant losses on the occupier," he said in a post on Telegram.

"However, the area remains extremely difficult. We are reinforcing our units.

"Our defence forces have partially stabilised the situation," army spokesman Nazar Voloshin said on state TV on Thursday.

"The advance of the enemy in certain zones and localities has been halted."

But the enemy is still trying to create the conditions for further advances," Voloshin warned.

- 'Killed by Russians' -

Ukraine accused Russia of capturing and killing civilians in the border town of Vovchansk and of keeping about 35 to 40 people as "human shields".

"According to operational information, the Russian military, trying to gain a foothold in the city, did not allow local residents to evacuate," Interior Minister Igor Klymenko said on Telegram.

"They began abducting people and driving them to basements," he added.

"The Russians keep them in one place and actually use them as a human shield, as their command headquarters is nearby," said Sergiy Bolvinov, head of the Kharkiv region's police investigation department.

AFP could not verify the claims, and there was no immediate response from Moscow to the allegations.

Ukraine has been forced to evacuate around 8,800 people since Russia launched the new assault, Kharkiv Governor Oleg Synegubov said.

Some were still arriving at a humanitarian centre in Kharkiv on Thursday.

Among them was 85-year-old Nadezhda Borodina, who had her dog Vasik on a leash and her frightened cat Lucas packed in a plastic bag.

Ukrainian "soldiers arrived and shouted 'Let's go, let's go!' and we were gone in five minutes," she said.

- 'All fronts' -

Most of Russia's recent gains are in the Kharkiv area, though they have also claimed fresh territory in the eastern Donetsk and southern Zaporizhzhia regions.

Following months of stalemate on the sprawling front lines, Russia has seized the initiative on the battlefield, pushing on from the capture of industrial hub Avdiivka in February.

Russia's defence ministry said Thursday the army had "advanced deep into the enemy's defences" in the Kharkiv region.

A day earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his troops were advancing on "all fronts".

Some military analysts say Moscow may be trying to force Ukraine to divert troops from other hot spots, such as around the strategic hilltop town of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region.

The Russian military said Wednesday its forces had captured the symbolic village of Robotyne in the Zaporizhzhia region, some 300 kilometres (185 miles) south of Moscow's new offensive.

The settlement was one of the few successes for Kyiv of an underwhelming Ukrainian counter-offensive last summer.

The intensification of Russian attacks on multiple fronts has underscored the acute ammunition and manpower shortages crippling the Ukrainian military.

There are no indications Moscow and Kyiv are prepared to engage in direct talks, which Ukraine says would only be used by Russia to buy time to prepare for a new assault.