Russia-Ukraine war: Army locked in 'intense' border fighting amid Russian invasion, says Zelensky

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian troops were locked in fierce battles with Ukrainian troops around the war-torn town of Vychansk in northeastern Ukraine on Monday, pushing ahead with a ground offensive that opened a new front and Ukrainian Put more pressure on the forces.

Moscow's renewed northeastern offensive, launched late last week, was the most significant border incursion since the full-scale offensive began.

According to two open-source monitoring analysts, in just two days, Moscow has captured between 100 and 125 square kilometers (38 and 47 square miles) including at least seven villages, most of which were previously They are settled.

Vochansk, one of the region's largest towns, saw its pre-war population of 17,000 shrink to just 2,500 before Russia renewed its ground offensive last week, encircling the Kharkiv region. Vali has emerged as an important center of battles. By Monday, only 200 to 300 residents remained, Kharkiv Governor Oleh Senyhobov said, as Russian forces moved in from three sides.

Poorly constructed fort And long-term ammunition shortages have enabled Russia's massive advance into the area since Friday, local officials and soldiers said. Kremlin forces were trying to distract and distract Ukrainian troops along the 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line until New military aid Ukrainian commanders and analysts said Kiev would be on the battlefield in the coming weeks and months from the U.S. and European partners.

This makes this period the window of opportunity for Moscow and the most dangerous for Kiev. Two Years' War, they said. By intensifying offensive operations, Russia seeks to weaken Ukrainian forces and make gains.

Russian forces have claimed another 90 square kilometers (35 sq mi), which has not been independently verified.

Opening a new front from two points along the border with the Russian region of Belgorod was the easiest tactic to divert Ukrainian forces from heavy fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Russia's most sought-after prize.

“The enemy identified the most convenient place geographically … the state border line,” said Yury Federenko, commander of the ACHILLES battalion of the 92nd brigade. He said his unit was rotated northeast from the Donetsk region to stabilize the northeastern front.

He fears that a similar front could be opened in the Somme region, which also shares a border with Russia.

The series of villages along the contested gray zone, where enemy shelling prevented the construction of fortifications, were the easiest for Moscow's forces to capture. Ukrainian commanders said their pace would slow as they approached better fortified settlements.

Federenko, whose unit received some aid, said small shipments of U.S. military aid had begun trickling into the front line in the form of much-needed artillery. But it will take at least two months before the incoming supply will meet Kiev's needs to maintain the line. Until they arrive, Ukraine will not be able to seize the battlefield initiative, he said.

He said that now they have an opportunity to attack us while we cannot give a proper response.

Russia wants to take advantage of this window of aggressive time. “In order to achieve success, in my opinion, in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, the enemy needs to expand our defense forces. Accordingly, the enemy launched a campaign specifically in the Kharkiv region,” Federenko said. .

The Kharkiv incursion has effectively halted Ukrainian forces in the region, while heavy fighting in the Donetsk region of Ivodiuka and Chasiv Yar has drawn potentially valuable reserves, where Russia's advance is most critical. And has been strategically important.

Local Ukrainian officials said they feared the fate of Vochansk could be similar to that of the Ukrainian cities of Bakhmut and Evdouka, where heavy fighting and scorched-earth tactics forced a Ukrainian evacuation.

Russian forces were approaching Vochansk, and heavy fighting was taking place on the outskirts of the town. Russian forces using assault infantry units are attempting to secure positions in three directions, as Ukrainian forces attempt to dislodge them using firepower. Ukrainian commanders describe the fighting as dynamic and complex.

Russian troops have so far entrenched themselves in the villages of Strelicha, Pilna, Borysivka, Krasne, Olynikov, Myrakovet, Platenika, and from there are launching attacks near Hlaibok Zelen Hetshe and Buchansk.

Capture of the city of Donetsk Avdiivka February opened a door for Kremlin forces to push westward, deep into Donetsk. Russia illegally annexed Donetsk and three other regions in 2022 shortly after invading Ukraine, and taking control of all of Donetsk is one of the Kremlin's main war goals.

If Ukraine does not manage to stop Moscow's advance, it could create conditions for a possible attack on Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city.

It could also create a “buffer zone” to protect Belgorod, where repeated Ukrainian attacks have embarrassed the Kremlin. In March, Russia announced its plans. Evacuating about 9,000 children from the Belgorod area because it was being shelled continuously.

Russian emergency services completed clearing debris in the regional capital of Belgorod on Monday after part of a residential building collapsed, where officials said Ukrainian shelling had hit.

Belgorod regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said 15 bodies had been pulled from the wreckage and 27 others were injured.

Three more people were killed in shelling in Belgorod city late on Sunday, he said.

Yevgeny Podobny, a normally well-connected military correspondent for Russia's state-run TV corporation VGTRK, said in a recent Telegram post that the Kharkiv attack was the beginning of “a new phase.”

“We are pushing the enemy back across the border, destroying the enemy in order to deprive the Kiev government of the opportunity to use relatively cheap rockets to attack Belgorod,” he said.


But follow AP's coverage of the war in Ukraine.

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