Ukraine forced to retreat to stop bloodbath over fears Putin has made major breakthrough | World | News

Russia looks set to seize the pivotal Kharkiv towns of Lukyantsi and Vovchansk after an abrupt Ukrainian retreat. The Ukrainian military said that the decision was made to avoid a potential bloodbath on the streets. One spokesperson told the AFP that it withdrew soldiers from the towns “in response to enemy fire and assaults from ground troops, and to save the lives of our servicemen and avoid losses”.

The head of Vovchansk police Oleksii Kharkivskyi shared an update from the besieged village this morning, saying: “Russians are taking positions on the streets of the city, the situation is extremely difficult, but even in such conditions the population is being evacuated.”

Russia launched its surprise attack in the Kharkiv region on Friday, opening up a second front in the war with Ukraine. Moscow has since intensified its assault and seized at least nine villages. Ukraine‘s army has said that Russia has deployed “significant forces” – up to five battalions – in its latest attacks.

The rapid offensive in Kharkiv is seen as one of the most significant Russian breakthroughs since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have fled towards the region’s capital, Kharkiv – Ukraine‘s second-biggest city.

Kharkiv regional head Oleh Syniehubov confirmed that nearly 6,000 people had already been evacuated in the region. He added that some 200 to 300 people remain in Vovchansk.

Top Ukrainian officials insist that Russia is “unlikely” to have the troop strength to size Kharkiv city itself.

However, there are concerns among Ukrainian military leaders about what could happen if Russian troops get within artillery range of the city. Vovchansk lies just 45km from the city centre. Emil Kastehelmi, an open-source intelligence analyst, said: “If Russia wants to go further south, Vovchansk needs to be captured.”

This comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was forced to abruptly cancel his trips abroad to Spain and Portugal “due to the difficult situation at the front”. He had planned to go to the Iberian Peninsula to discuss new supplies of military assistance to Ukraine, including air defense systems but the imminent collapse of the Ukrainian frontline in Kharkiv prompted the move.

Source link