Fighting in Kharkiv has intensified as Russia says troops are entering Vochansk.

image caption, Military paramedics treat an injured Ukrainian service member during Russia's attack on Ukraine near the town of Vochansk.

  • the author, Doug Faulkner
  • the role, BBC News

Russia claims its forces have entered the northeastern border town of Vochansk, near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city.

Ukraine says heavy fighting is still going on there.

Russia stepped up its offensive in the region after a surprise cross-border incursion on Friday, seizing at least nine villages and towns in the most significant ground offensive since a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Thousands of civilians have fled to Kharkiv, and Ukrainian commanders are worried about what could happen if Russian forces get within artillery range of the city.

Ukraine's military has said Russia has deployed “significant forces” – up to five battalions – in its latest operation, admitting it had achieved “resounding success”.

But in a statement, the military claimed that Russia had lost more than 100 troops in a day, adding that it was taking steps to repel the advancing forces.

Vochansk, located 74 kilometers (45 miles) from Kharkiv, has been heavily bombed in recent days and officials in the surrounding area say Moscow is now targeting the settlement with glide bombs.

Kharkiv regional chief Olya Sanyhobov said Russia was deliberately trying to stretch the front line by attacking in small groups in new directions.

He told local television that Ukrainian forces were holding off Russian troops but warned that fighting could spread to new settlements.

About 6,000 people have been displaced in the area, he said, adding that 30 settlements have been hit by mortar or artillery shelling.

While it is believed that this Russian cross-border incursion is still unlikely to take Kharkiv, their gradual approach to this new, northeastern front raises concerns for those living there.

Kostyantyn Tymchenko, who lives in Vovchansk, is among those who have left the city for the relative safety of Kharkiv and said he was surprised by how close the fighting was.

“Half a kilometer away, there are already fighting, automatic weapons,” he said.

“on one hand [of the Vovcha River] are [Russians]on the other hand – ours.

“The tanks are constantly approaching, shooting back and then leaving. I thought it was going to be fine. I was shocked. I wish I had known.”

Not far from Kharkiv, two people were killed in shelling in the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, the Russian-installed mayor claimed. Ukraine has not commented on the incident.

Russia also said it had shot down 31 Ukrainian drones in several areas of neighboring Crimea.

It comes after Russian officials said part of an apartment block in the Russian border city of Belgorod collapsed, killing at least 15 people when it was hit by shrapnel from a Ukrainian missile that was shot down. .

Ukrainian forces targeted an oil terminal and an electrical substation in western Russia, a Ukrainian security source said.

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