Russia Opens New Front in Ukraine’s Kharkiv Region

Russia Opens New Front in Ukraine's Kharkiv Region

Ukraine strengthened its defenses in the northeastern Kharkiv region to repel a Russian attempt to breach local defenses, a tactical shift by Moscow that Ukrainian officials have anticipated for weeks as the war enters its third year.

Intense nighttime shelling targeted Vovchansk, a town in the Kharkiv region and less than 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the Russian border, according to regional Gov. Oleh Syniehubov. The attack prompted the evacuation of around 3,000 people.

Russian infantry tried to penetrate Ukrainian defenses near Vovchansk around dawn, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry. Reserve units were deployed to fend off the attack.

Russian military bloggers suggested that the assault could mark the start of a Russian attempt to create a “buffer zone” that President Vladimir Putin pledged earlier this year to halt frequent Ukrainian attacks on Belgorod and other Russian border regions.

Ukraine had previously reported that Russia was amassing thousands of troops along the northeastern border, close to the Kharkiv and Sumy regions. While the Kremlin’s forces launched their latest ground offensive in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian intelligence officials expected an attack in the northeast as well.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukraine’s military had anticipated the attack and had calibrated its response. “Now there is a fierce battle in this direction,” Zelenskyy told Ukraine’s public broadcaster Suspilne.

Though Russia is unlikely to capture Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, it could force Ukraine to deploy more troops to the region, leaving other areas vulnerable to attack. Additionally, evacuating civilians is likely to create disruption and divert resources.

“The entire town is under massive shelling now, it is not safe to stay here,” Vovchansk administration head Tamaz Hambarishvili told Ukraine’s Hromadske Radio.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry reported that fighting against Russian sabotage and reconnaissance groups continued into the afternoon.

Ukrainian Drone Strikes Oil Refinery in Russia

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian long-range drone struck an oil refinery inside Russia on Friday, officials said. This attack followed what appeared to be the deepest strike by Ukrainian forces on Russian soil, which hit a petrochemical facility the previous day.

Ukraine has repeatedly targeted refineries to disrupt the Kremlin’s war machine. Russia is one of the world’s biggest oil producers, providing key revenue and fuel.

A Ukrainian drone hit a refinery near Kaluga, southwest of Moscow, igniting four oil storage tanks, according to regional governor Vladislav Shapsha. He reported no casualties.

The Russian Defense Ministry said that air defenses downed seven Ukrainian drones early Friday in the Moscow, Bryansk, and Belgorod regions.

On Thursday, a senior official in Russia’s Bashkortostan region, some 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) from the Ukrainian border, said a drone strike in Salavat caused a fire at a petrochemical facility.

The Russian Emergencies Ministry said a pumping station building on refinery land was damaged but there was no fire. Ukrainian military intelligence refused to comment.

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