Zelenskyy expects Russia to intensify offensive in northeast Ukraine

    WORLD  18 May 2024 - 16:24

    Russian forces, which made only moderate advances in recent months, launched a surprise assault in the Kharkiv region on May 10 that has resulted in their biggest territorial gains in a year-and-a-half.

    According to France24, Zelenskyy said Russian troops managed to advance between five to 10 kilometres (3-6 miles) along the northeastern border before being stopped by Ukrainian forces, but added that the region could be the "first wave" in a wider offensive.

    "I won't say it's a great success (for Russia) but we have to be sober and understand that they are going deeper into our territory," he said, speaking from Kyiv in his first interview with foreign media since the offensive began.

    Zelenskyy said the situation in the Kharkiv region has been "controlled" but "not stabilised".

    He doubled down on pleas to allies to send more air defence and fighter jets to combat Russia's air superiority as the war grinds through its third year.

    "Today, we have about 25 per cent of what we need to defend Ukraine. I'm talking about air defence," he said.

    Ukraine needs "120 to 130" F-16 fighter jets or other advanced aircraft to achieve air "parity" with Russia, Zelenskyy said.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a trip to China this week the northeastern offensive was in retaliation for Ukraine's shelling of border regions and that Moscow was trying to create a "security zone".

    Russian forces have taken 278 square kilometres (107 square miles) between May 9 and 15, their biggest gains since the end of 2022, AFP calculated using data from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

    Governor Oleg Synegubov said Saturday that Ukraine's armed forces had repelled two attempts to break through defences overnight, with the situation "under control."

    Ukrainian officials have accused Russian soldiers in Vovchansk of capturing dozens of civilians to use as "human shields" to defend their command headquarters -- a claim AFP was not able to immediately verify.

    "In the area of the city of Vovchansk, Ukrainian troops are reinforcing their defence to improve the tactical situation," Synegubov said.

    Ukraine has evacuated almost 10,000 people from the northeast border area since Russia launched the assault.

    Putin said there was no intention at this stage to take Kharkiv, Ukraine's second city, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the border. More than one million people still live there.

    Military analysts say the northeastern offensive could aim to further stretch Ukrainian troops and resources, with Russia pressing its manpower and ammunition advantage.

    Ukraine army chief Oleksandr Syrsky said Russia was trying to force Ukraine to pull up even more troops from its reserves.

    "We realise that there will be heavy fighting ahead and the enemy is preparing for it," he said.

    Caliber.Az

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