Putin's surprise attack leaves Ukraine in an 'incredibly difficult' position

According to a National Police readout, Russia was launching “sustained shelling” of Kharkiv on Saturday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy took two briefings from his Commander-in-Chief Alexander Serskyi on Saturday.

According to an assessment by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Russia carried out airstrikes in Velcha, Liptsi, Leman, Uzbatskoye, Vysloye, Petroka, Kazachya Lupin, Senilnikovo, Volchansk in Kharkiv.

Tamaz Hambarashvili, head of the Vuchansk military administration, said the situation was “incredibly difficult,” according to the AP.

Russia has mainly focused its war effort on Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, with only modest gains. But in recent weeks, Russia has been focusing attacks on energy infrastructure in an effort to prepare for a further attack, the AP reported.

The timing is sensitive for Ukraine, which has suffered from troop and resource shortages in recent months. Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War said the attack was likely aimed at concentrating Ukrainian resources in Kharkiv to reduce Ukraine's focus on thwarting Russian offensives in eastern Ukraine. So far, the operation has given Russia “significant strategic gains,” ISW said.

Russia claims it has captured five villages between Kharkiv and Russia.

Russia launched its surprise operation on Friday in the Vochansk community, three miles from the Russian border, killing at least two civilians, Oleg Senigubov, head of the regional administration, said in a post on Telegram.

Ukraine had recaptured Vochansk from Russian occupation early in the war.

About 1,000 residents evacuated Kharkiv between Friday and Saturday, according to National Police figures.

According to AP journalists on the ground, buildings were destroyed and others caught fire on Saturday. Sky News reported smoke billowing from buildings.

Ukraine is working to strengthen its position in Kharkiv, Zelenskyi said in a speech on Saturday.

“Our defensive operations in the Kharkiv region are ongoing,” Zelensky said. “Disrupting Russian offensive plans is now the number one task.” It is up to every soldier, every sergeant, every officer to accomplish this task.

The attack comes just weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled that he might try to establish a “buffer” zone between Russia and Ukraine – but only on Ukrainian soil. Analysts at the time believed that his statements could be the basis for imposing a zone on Ukrainian territory painted as a peaceful buffer between Ukraine and Russia, when in fact it was Ukrainian territory. may cover forced annexation under another name.

According to ISW, the operation is aimed at pushing Ukrainian forces back from Belgorod, Russia.

ISW analysts said, “Russian forces are likely to take advantage of their strategic position in northern Kharkiv Oblast in the coming days to step up offensive operations and pursue the initial phase of an offensive that would The objective is to withdraw Ukrainian forces from the border of Belgorod Oblast.”

Ukrainian forces have been waging a months-long offensive against Belgorod that has put Russia on the back foot, and Ukrainian residents are being evacuated after fighting on Russian soil.

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