Ukraine claims Russia troops pushed back to border near Kharkiv

Ukraine on Monday claimed that its troops had reached the border with Russia near Kharkiv after weeks of successful counterattack that pushed Moscow’s invading forces back from the country’s second-largest city.

But officials in Washington and Kyiv stressed that fierce battles between Ukrainian and Russian troops raged south of Kharkiv over the far eastern Donbas region, where Russia had concentrated most of its forces.

A video posted on social media by a senior regional official showed Ukrainian troops erecting a border post, with one heard telling Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky that they had reached the border with “the country of the occupiers”.

“We got here Mr President,” the soldier said. “We are here. Border guards are with us.” Responding, Zelensky said: “Many thanks . . . You have done well!”

The claim could not be independently verified and it was not immediately clear which region of the border Ukrainian troops said they had retaken. Ukraine lost control over much of its border region in north-east and far eastern regions after Russia launched its full-blown invasion on February 24.

A senior US defence official said on Monday that Ukrainian forces had regained some ground around Kharkiv but that Russian bombardments and artillery strikes on the city continued.

The official assessed that “the Ukrainians have pushed Russian forces to within three to four kilometres of the Russian border”.

Recent UK defence ministry intelligence maps show that Ukrainian forces had pushed Russian forces 15km to 30km north, east and south of Kharkiv in recent weeks. Invading forces had shelled the city heavily for nearly three months.

Ukrainian officials cautioned, however, that the advances made in Kharkiv, from where Russian forces may have retreated to concentrate attacks in the Donbas, did not mean a full-blown counter attack.

Oleksiy Arestovych, another adviser in Zelensky’s office, was quoted on social media as saying the country still needed more long range and heavy calibre weaponry from western backers “in serious quantities.”

The US Senate is expected this week to adopt a $40bn assistance package for Kyiv that includes more weaponry.

The US defence official noted that Russia now had 106 battalion tactical groups in Ukraine and its progress in its attempt to gain full control of the Donbas region in the eastern part of the country had been “uneven, slow, incremental, short and small”.

While Russian forces had made some “small gains” to the west of Donetsk, they had been struggling despite repeated attempts to cross the Siversky Donets river in the region.

“They have been stymied at just about every effort by the Ukrainians and it’s going to be difficult for them to make any significant gains in the Donbas area until they can reposition forces or find less well defended areas to cross that river,” the senior US defence official said.

Ukraine’s armed forces have in past days posted aerial photographs showing dozens of Russian tanks and armoured vehicles destroyed by strikes while trying to cross the river on a military pontoon bridge.

Oleg Synyegubov, head of the Kharkiv region’s civilian military administration, said on Monday in a video interview that over 600,000 people had already returned to Kharkiv, a city with a prewar population of more than 1.4m.

Around 2,000 were arriving per day by train, Synyegubov said, adding that life is returning to normal.

Work is being done to restore the heavily-shelled city’s infrastructure, including gas, electricity and running water. A key task, he said, is to find accommodation for some 4,200 people still sheltering within Kharkiv’s metro system.

The city was quiet overnight and just a handful of air strikes could be heard, he said, though a few people were injured. It is a significant reduction in shelling for the city.

Source link

Back to top button