Russia Claims Advances on 2 Fronts During Blinken Visit to Kyiv

Russia said Wednesday its forces had pushed deeper into the Kharkiv region and also captured the symbolic town of Robotyne further south, one of the only prizes of Ukraine’s underwhelming counteroffensive last summer.

Moscow’s advances on two fronts point to the critical shortages of ammunition and manpower that Kyiv has been struggling with in recent months, during which the Kremlin’s army has steadily eaten away at Ukrainian territory.

President Volodymyr Zelensky canceled planned trips abroad over the fresh offensive and the military was sending more troops to Kharkiv to hold back Russian advances, Kyiv said.

Ukraine had earlier announced it was pulling some troops back as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was on an unannounced visit to Kyiv where Zelensky urged him to speed up the U.S. supplies of weapons.

“Units of the North group of troops liberated the settlements of Hlyboke and Lukyantsi in Kharkiv region and also advanced deep into the enemy defenses,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The Defense Ministry also said it had captured the southern Ukrainian village of Robotyne, one of only a handful of settlements Kyiv retook at a huge cost in its summer counteroffensive last year.

Zelensky visited the village in February and had hailed its capture as a major success in what had otherwise been an operation plagued with setbacks.

‘Extremely difficult’ fighting

Moscow launched a surprise major ground assault on the Kharkiv region last week as it seeks to advance across the battlefield with Kyiv struggling for arms and manpower.

A Ukrainian military spokesman appearing on state television conceded earlier on Wednesday that it had withdrawn troops — including near Lukyantsi — citing overwhelming Russian onslaughts and the need to save the lives of Ukrainian soldiers.

Authorities in another village under attack, Vovchansk, said there was intense street-to-street fighting in the border town that before the war had an estimated population of 20,000 people.

“We are here and are evacuating people and helping them. The situation in Vovchansk is extremely difficult,” police chief Oleksiy Kharkivsky said on social media.

The Interior Ministry announced that three civilians had been killed in the Kharkiv region over the last 24 hours and the national police said five civilians had been wounded by Russian fire on Wednesday.

The Ukrainian military said the situation “remains difficult” but insisted its forces were “not allowing the Russian occupiers to gain a foothold.”

Zelensky’s office said the president had postponed upcoming trips and reiterated that the military was rushing reinforcements to the area to prevent Russia from punching through.

“Additional forces are being deployed, and there are reserves,” Zelensky’s office said.

He had been planning to visit Spain later this week.

‘Difficult’ fighting in east

Some military analysts say Moscow may be trying to force Ukraine to divert troops from other areas of the front line, such as around the strategic town of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region, where Russia has also been advancing.

“Donetsk and Kharkiv regions are where it is most difficult now,” Zelensky said in an address on Tuesday evening.

Blinken’s visit came just weeks after the U.S. Congress finally approved a $61-billion financial aid package for Ukraine following months of political wrangling, unlocking much-needed arms for the country’s outgunned troops.

As his trip got underway Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that its troops had captured more territory in the Kharkiv region. During a meeting with Blinken, Zelensky asked for two more Patriot air-defense systems to defend the border territory.

Some Ukrainians have reacted angrily to a guitar performance by Blinken in a bar in Kyiv late Tuesday, chastising Washington’s top diplomat for an ill-judged jam session while troops are fighting in trenches, struggling to hold back a Russian advance amid a shortage of weapons.

Ukrainian officials have said that more than 30,000 Russian forces have been deployed to the northeastern region but that the regional hub, the country’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, was not threatened by the offensive.

Ukraine also launched aerial attacks on Russia, forcing the closure of two airports in the region of Tatarstan some 1,000 kilometers inside Russian territory.

Russian aerial defense systems intercepted and destroyed 17 drones across several border areas, as well as 10 ATACMS missiles over the annexed Crimean peninsula, the Defense Ministry said.


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