KHARKIV, UKRAINE MAY 10: A view from the site aftermath of the explosion of a Russian missile (according to the Ukrainian authorities, S-400) in the area of a cottage residential development in Kharkiv, Ukraine on May 10, 2024. The explosion occurred on May 10 at 03:20. At the site of the explosion, 3 residential buildings and outbuildings were destroyed, and several other buildings were damaged. Doctors treated a 72-year-old woman and an 11-year-old child for acute stress reaction. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images)
A view from the site aftermath of the explosion of a Russian missile in the area of a cottage residential development in Kharkiv (Picture: Anadolu via Getty Images)

Volodymyr Zelensky has said the situation in Kharkiv is ‘especially tense’, with street battles raging in seven border villages.

Russia launched the incursion early on Friday, opening up a new front that may signal a broader push into the contested southern Donetsk region or seek to stretch Kyiv’s defences.

Ukraine has been on the back foot on the battlefield for months as it struggles to deal with advancing Russian troops, as well as a shortage in manpower and artillery shells.

In his nightly video address, President Zelensky said: ‘Our defensive operations continue in the Kharkiv region, in the area of the villages of Strilecha, Krasne, Morokhovets, Oliynykovo, Lukiantsi, Hatyshche and Pletenivka.

‘Also, the situation in Donetsk remains especially tense, in particular the Pokrovsky direction.’

He added: ‘I am grateful to every brigade of ours that bravely defends their positions, repels assaults, and destroys the occupier.

‘Disrupting the Russian offensive intentions is the number one task now.

Volodymyr Zelensky
Volodymyr Zelensky has said the situation in Kharkiv is ‘especially tense’ (Picture: AP)

‘The accomplishment of this task depends on every soldier, every sergeant, every officer.

‘I thank all the commanders who actually do everything necessary to ensure that our warriors are properly motivated and clearly know how to act.’

The Russian Defence Ministry said Saturday that Moscow’s forces have captured five villages as part of a renewed ground assault in northeastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian journalists reported that the villages of Borysivka, Ohirtseve, Pylna and Strilecha, were taken by Russian troops on Friday. Russia said the village of Pletenivka was also taken.

KHARKIV, UKRAINE MAY 10: A view from the site aftermath of the explosion of a Russian missile (according to the Ukrainian authorities, S-400) in the area of a cottage residential development in Kharkiv, Ukraine on May 10, 2024. The explosion occurred on May 10 at 03:20. At the site of the explosion, 3 residential buildings and outbuildings were destroyed, and several other buildings were damaged. Doctors treated a 72-year-old woman and an 11-year-old child for acute stress reaction. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images)
Ukraine has been on the back foot on the battlefield for months (Picture: Anadolou/Getty)

The renewed assault on the region has forced more than 1,700 civilians residing in settlements near the fighting to flee, according to Ukrainian authorities.

It comes after Russia stepped up attacks in March targeting energy infrastructure and settlements, which analysts predicted were a concerted effort by Moscow to shape conditions for an offensive.

Russia’s recent push in Kharkiv also seeks to exploit ammunition shortages before promised Western supplies can reach the front line, and pin down Ukrainian forces in the northeast and keep them away from heavy battles underway in the Donetsk region where Moscow’s troops are gaining ground, analysts said.

Russian military bloggers said the assault could mark the start of a Russian attempt to carve out a ‘buffer zone’ that Vladimir Putin vowed to create earlier this year to halt frequent Ukrainian attacks on Belgorod and other Russian border regions.

Fears also mount that without adequate supplies, Russia might even be able to cut supply routes and besiege the city of Kharkiv, where 1.1 million people reside.



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Ukrainian officials have downplayed Russian statements about captured territory, with reinforcements being rushed to the Kharkiv region to hold off Russian forces.

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