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Firefighters shelter in a basement in Kharkiv during an alert after extinguishing a fire caused by a previous attack. May 10, 2024.

Russia launches new offensive in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region

Source: Meduza
Firefighters shelter in a basement in Kharkiv during an alert after extinguishing a fire caused by a previous attack. May 10, 2024.
Firefighters shelter in a basement in Kharkiv during an alert after extinguishing a fire caused by a previous attack. May 10, 2024.
Viacheslav Mavrychev / Suspilne Ukraine / JSC «UA:PBC» / Global Images Ukraine / Getty Images

Early May 10, Russia launched a ground attack to the north and east of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, attempting to push through Ukrainian defense lines and advance into the region. Ukraine has rushed reinforcements to the area and says it is repelling the attack, but President Volodymyr Zelensky described the ongoing fighting as “fierce.” The attack comes after weeks of speculation about Russia planning to create a “buffer zone” of occupied territory to protect its border regions from attacks. Here’s what we know about the fighting on this new front.

Russian forces launched a new offensive in the border areas of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region on the morning of Friday, May 10. Russian pro-war Telegram channels were the first to report the ground attack. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry later confirmed that the Russian military had attempted “to break through the defensive line under the cover of armored vehicles.”

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said its forces repelled the attacks, but that “fighting of varying intensity” is still ongoing and reserves have been sent to reinforce the area. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also stated that there is a “fierce battle” in the Kharkiv region, adding that Ukrainian artillery fire had halted the Russian advance.

According to the Ukrainian OSINT project Deep State, Russian forces “are trying to enter and secure” Ukrainian settlements along the border, including the villages of Strilecha, Krasne, Pylna, and Borysivka (located near the Russian-Ukrainian border to the north of Kharkiv), as well as Hatyshche and Pletenivka (located further east along the border, near the city of Vovchansk). Deep State writes that Ukrainian forces destroyed three pieces of Russian equipment that were moving deeper into the Kharkiv region from the direction of Pylna.

The Russian Defense Ministry has yet to comment on the reported offensive.

Along with the ground offensive, the Russian military has intensified shelling in the region. Vovchansk, which lies three miles from the border and about six miles from Shebekino, a town in Russia’s Belgorod region, suffered the worst shelling. Kharkiv Regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov said that one person in Vovchansk was killed and five were injured. Another person was killed in the village of Cherkaski Tyshky. There were also reports of casualties in Kharkiv city and the nearby village of Lyptsi from shelling overnight. The local authorities say they have begun to evacuate Vovchansk.

Deep State says that Russia has not yet deployed enough forces for a deep advance but don’t rule out that this could still happen. “It’s important to note that they [the Russian military] can increase and reinforce their forces in this direction — that’s a fact. However, our military and command were aware of this and have positioned our forces to confront the enemy with firepower,” Zelensky said Friday.

One possible objective of the offensive could be to create a “buffer zone” along the border, a senior Ukrainian military official told Reuters. This theory was also mentioned in Russian pro-war Telegram channels. Reuter’s source said the Russians may be trying to push the Ukrainian army as far as 10 kilometers (about six miles) into Ukraine. The source also said that the Russian army had already advanced more than half a mile into Ukraine near Vovchansk.

In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about the possibility of creating a “buffer zone” on Ukrainian territory to prevent the Ukrainian military from shelling Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine’s Kharkiv region.

Russia captured border areas in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region at the beginning of the full-scale invasion in 2022. However, the Ukrainian army later liberated this territory in a surprise counteroffensive. In 2024, sources among the “Russian elites” told Meduza that high-ranking security officials were considering attempting to take Kharkiv and then declare an end to the “special military operation.” However, there is no confirmation that the Russian command has made such a decision.

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