Ukraine pushes back Russian troops in counter-offensive near Kharkiv

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  • Ukrainian counter-offensive could change the momentum of the war
  • Ukrainian forces seek to cut Russian supply lines
  • The United States worries about the future course of the war

KHARKIV, Ukraine, May 10 (Reuters) – Ukraine said on Tuesday its forces had recaptured villages from Russian troops north and northeast of the city of Kharkiv, pushing a counter-offensive that could signal a change in the momentum of the war and jeopardize Russia’s main advance. .

Ukrainian troops have taken over four settlements north of Ukraine’s second-largest city in recent days, said Tetiana Apatchenko, press officer for the main Ukrainian force in the region.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukrainian successes were gradually pushing Russian forces out of Kharkiv in the northeast of the country, which has been under perpetual bombardment since the start of the war.

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“But I also want to urge all of our people (…) not to spread excessive emotions. We must not create an atmosphere of excessive moral pressure, where victories are expected every week and even every day,” said Zelenskiy in a video address.

In Washington, senior US intelligence officials declared the war to be at an impasse. President Vladimir Putin appears to be preparing for a long conflict and a Russian victory in Ukraine’s Donbass region may not end the war, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines has said.

But the counterattack near Kharkiv could signal a new phase, with Ukraine now going on the offensive after weeks in which Russia launched a massive assault without making a breakthrough.

Pushing back the Russian forces that had occupied the outskirts of Kharkiv since the start of the invasion, the Ukrainians closed in on the rear supply lines supporting the main Russian attack force further south.

“The Ukrainians are moving closer to the Russian border. So all the gains that the Russians made early on in northeastern Ukraine are moving further and further away,” Neil Melvin of think tank RUSI told London.

CHALLENGES

At a military parade in Red Square on Monday marking the end of World War II, Putin urged Russians to keep fighting but gave no indication of his future strategy.

Since Russia was forced to abandon an assault on the capital kyiv in late March, its main force has been trying to encircle Ukrainian troops in the Donbass, using the town of Izyum south of Kharkiv as a base. So far, Ukrainian troops have mostly withstood assaults from three directions.

But by pushing back near Kharkiv, Ukraine could now force Moscow to try to defend its own long supply lines to Izyum. Western military analysts said there were signs the counterattack was already undermining Russia’s advance.

“Our assessment is that they (the Russians) have to withdraw some forces from the axes leading to control of the Donbass region because of what happened in Kharkiv, and this only highlights the challenges they face” , said the retired American general. Jack Keane, now president of the Institute for the Study of War think tank.

In the south, Russian forces again battered the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, trying to capture the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in the ruined city where Ukraine says tens of thousands died under two months of Russian siege.

Dozens of civilians have been evacuated from the steel plant in recent days, but an aide to Mariupol mayor Petro Andryushchenko said at least 100 were still inside.

The Ukrainian Azov Regiment, which is resisting Azovstal, said in a social media post that in the past 24 hours, 34 Russian planes had flown over the plant, including eight strategic bomber sorties. He said the plant came under Russian naval and tank, artillery and rocket fire. Reuters was unable to verify the situation.

In Odessa, firefighters battled blazes until the early hours of Tuesday after seven Russian missiles hit a shopping center and a depot on Monday. One person was killed and five people were injured, the Ukrainian armed forces said.

Ukraine said its armed forces in Donbass on Tuesday destroyed 12 Russian tanks and 19 armored vehicles and shot down three planes. In the Luhansk region of the Donbass, Russian forces were shelling all roads outside the region, which lost electricity, water and gas, regional governor Serhit Haidai said.

“We are trying to restore cell phone communications. Evacuation is completely impossible. We cannot take this risk,” Haidai said.

“IT COULD HAVE BEEN US”

The number of Ukrainians who have fled their country since Russia invaded on February 24 is approaching 6 million, according to the United Nations, which says the refugee crisis is growing the fastest since World War II.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock traveled to Ukraine on Tuesday and visited Bucha, the suburb north of kyiv where Russian forces left behind hundreds of dead civilians when they withdrew in early April. She said the killers should be punished.

“That’s what we owe the victims,” ​​she said. “And these victims, we feel that here very intensely, these victims could have been us.”

Russia has denied killing civilians in Bucha. He calls his actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say this is a false pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.

Western countries have imposed sweeping sanctions on Moscow and are taking steps to ban or phase out the use of Russian energy.

Ukraine, which remained a major route for Russian gas to Europe even after the invasion, said on Tuesday it would suspend the use of a transit point for Russian gas bound for Europe , accusing Moscow of this decision.

He said he would redirect the gas from this transit point, which is in an area occupied by Russian forces, to another in an area controlled by Ukraine. Read more

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Additional reporting Tom Balmforth in Kyiv Writing by Peter Graff, Angus MacSwan and Rami Ayyub, Editing by Tomasz Janowski, Cynthia Osterman and Rosalba O’Brien

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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