Kharkiv fighting intensifies as Russia says troops enter Vovchansk

Legend, Military paramedics treat an injured Ukrainian serviceman, amid the Russian attack on Ukraine, near the town of Vovchansk

  • Author, Doug Faulkner
  • Role, BBC News

Russia says its forces have entered the northeastern Ukrainian border town of Vovchansk, near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

Ukraine says heavy fighting is still taking place there.

Russia intensified its attacks in the region after Friday’s surprise incursions across the border, seizing at least nine villages and settlements in one of the most significant ground attacks since its large-scale invasion of the Ukraine in February 2022.

Thousands of civilians have fled to Kharkiv and Ukrainian commanders worry about what could happen if Russian forces come within artillery range of the city.

Ukraine’s military said Russia deployed “significant forces” – up to five battalions – in its latest offensive, acknowledging it had had “tactical success”.

But in a statement, the army said Russia had lost more than 100 soldiers in one day, adding that it was taking measures to repel the advancing forces.

Vovchansk, 74 km from Kharkiv, has been heavily bombed in recent days and officials in the surrounding region say Moscow is now targeting settlements with hover bombs.

Kharkiv regional head Oleh Syniehubov said Russia was deliberately trying to expand the front line by attacking in small groups in new directions.

He told local television that Ukrainian forces were holding back Russian troops, but warned that fighting could spread to new settlements, according to Reuters.

Nearly 6,000 people were evacuated in the region, he said, adding that 30 settlements were hit by mortar or artillery fire.

Although it is unlikely that this Russian cross-border incursion will succeed in taking Kharkiv, their gradual approach to this new front line in the northeast is only increasing the anxiety of those living there.

Kostyantyn Tymchenko, who lives in Vovchansk, was among those who left the city for the relative safety of Kharkiv and said he was shocked by the intensity of the fighting.

“Half a kilometer away there is already fighting, automatic weapons,” he said.

“On one side (of the Vovcha River) are (the Russians), on the other, ours.

“Tanks constantly approach, return fire and then leave. I thought everything would be fine. I was shocked. I wish I had known in advance.”

Far from Kharkiv, two people were killed by bombings in the Russian-controlled town of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, the Russian-installed mayor said. Ukraine has not commented on this incident.

Russia also said it shot down 31 Ukrainian drones over several regions of annexed Crimea.

It comes after Russian officials said at least 15 people were killed when part of a building fell in the Russian border town of Belgorod when it was hit by fragments of a Ukrainian missile that had been shot.

A Ukrainian security source said Ukrainian forces struck an oil terminal and electricity substation in western Russia.

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