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Zelensky prepares for broader Russian offensive in Ukraine

Photo: Evgeniy Maloletka Associated Press A Ukrainian police officer removes a fragment from a bomb after a Russian airstrike on a residential area of ​​Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine, on May 18.

Ania Tsoukanova – Agence France-Presse and Emmanuel Peuchot – Agence France-Presse to kyiv

Posted at 5:11 p.m.

  • Europe

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expects a broader offensive by the Russian army in the North and East, where it continues its large-scale assault launched on May 10 that would target to take the large city of Kharkiv.

The Russians “have launched their operation, it may consist of several waves. And that’s their first wave,” Mr. Zelensky said on Friday in an exclusive interview with Agence France-Presse. Russia has just made its biggest territorial gains since the end of 2022.

Zelensky nevertheless assured that, despite Russian advances in recent days in the Kharkiv region in the northeast, the situation was better for Ukrainian forces than a week ago, when enemy troops crossed the line by surprise. border.

For him, Russia wants to attack Kharkiv, the second largest city in the country, only a few dozen kilometers from the front. Russian soldiers had already failed in their attempt to take it in 2022 and Vladimir Putin declared on Friday that he did not intend to attack it “for the moment”.

The current offensive aims, according to the Russian president, to respond to the Ukrainian strikes of recent months on Russia by creating a buffer zone.

His forces are trying to take advantage of the lack of soldiers and weapons facing Ukraine after two years of war.

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  • Ukraine struggling in the northeast, Putin justifies his assault
  • Ukraine says it has slowed Russian advance in Kharkiv region

Nearly 10,000 evacuations

Mr. Zelensky admitted to AFP that military personnel were insufficient. “There are a significant number of brigades that are empty,” he said.

Faced with these deficiencies, controversial legislation came into force on Saturday to accelerate mobilization with the lowering of the minimum age from 27 to 25 years.

On Friday, Mr. Zelensky also promulgated a law allowing the recruitment of detainees in exchange for parole.

Speaking to the West, he lamented having only a quarter of the air defense systems that Ukraine needs, adding that he also needed 120 to 130 F-16 fighter jets.

In the Kharkiv region, Russia announced on Saturday that it had seized the village of Staritsa, near Vovtchansk, a town located around fifty kilometers from Kharkiv, ensuring that its forces “continue their advanced deep into the enemy's defensive positions.”

In his daily message to the Ukrainians on Saturday evening, Volodymyr Zelensky, however, stressed that Russia was paying a high price her advances, and had not managed to advance as quickly as she expected.

“The invaders lose their infantry and their equipment, it is a loss “significant,” he said.

Russia “counted on a rapid advance into our lands”, as when launching the invasion in 2022, he emphasized.

Nearly ten thousand people were forced to leave their homes in the Kharkiv region, however, Ukrainian authorities said.

“In total, 9,907 people were evacuated “, Governor Oleg Synegubov said on Saturday.

Two civilians, aged 70 and 83, were killed as they were leaving Vovchansk by car, the governor said. Kharkiv regional prosecutor.

The situation is, however, according to Mr. Synegubov, “under control”.

“The battle in the Vovchansk region continues,” the Ukrainian army confirmed.

“Human shields”

Mr. Synegubov claimed that the Russians had “begun to destroy Vovchansk, using tanks and artillery.” The town had 18,000 inhabitants before the war. About a hundred people are still there and “intense fighting” is taking place there, according to the governor.

Kiev accuses Moscow of using civilians there as “ human shields” and to have carried out at least one summary execution.

A little further west, the Russians advanced on their second axis of assault in the region.

Their objective is the village of Loukiantsi, to open the way to Lyptsi, still on the road to Kharkiv.

For its part, the Russian army claimed Friday the conquest, in one week, of 12 localities in the region and affirmed that its men continued to progress there.

< p>During this period, it made its largest territorial gains since the end of 2022, with some 257 km2 taken in the Kharkiv region alone, according to an analysis Thursday by AFP based on data provided by the American Institute for study of the war.

Friday, Kharkiv, very regularly bombed, was hit by new Russian strikes which left at least three dead and 28 injured, according to a recent assessment provided by its mayor, Igor Terekhov.

Russia for its part accused the Kiev regime on Saturday of having attacked it with French Hammer guided bombs and with American HARM anti-radar missiles in the Russian region of Belgorod, bordering Ukraine.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116