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Russia expands battlefront in Kharkiv with small groups, says governor

Russia began a ground offensive in the north of the Ukrainian region of Kharkiv this Monday (13), attacking new areas with small assault groups to try to expand the battle front and disperse Ukrainian forces, the regional governor said.

Moscow's troops entered Ukraine near its second-largest city, Kharkiv, on Friday, opening a new front in the northeast. For almost two years, the war has largely raged in the east and south of the country.

Thus, this advance could scatter Kiev's already depleted military that was east, where Russia has been slowly advancing.

“The enemy is trying to deliberately enlarge [a linha de frente], attacking in small groups, but in new directions, so to speak. The situation is difficult,” said Governor Oleh Syniehubov in televised comments.

Russian forces were heading towards the city of Vovchansk, about 5 km from the Russian border, as well as the village of Lyptsi, which is north of Kharkiv, according to the official.

Kiev's troops are already managing to defend all access to Vovchansk, added Syniehubov, but the invading army is trying to establish itself in a meat processing plant on the outskirts of the city, according to the settlement's military administration.

Syniehubov said around 5,700 people had been evacuated from Vovchansk and the surrounding area, urging the remaining residents, who local authorities believe to be around 300, to leave.

Civilian evacuation plan

Volunteers went from house to house, knocking on doors to convince residents who were still in the city to prepare to evacuate.

Vovchansk police chief Maksym Stetsyna said the city was repeatedly shelled by artillery and mortars.

“Some neighborhoods in Vovchansk are not easily accessible due to constant shelling. However, the situation is stable and under control, we are evacuating people, everything is fine,” Stetsyna told Reuters.

President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a late-night video message, said Vovchansk and other border areas had been reinforced. The Ukrainian military, he highlighted, understood “how the enemy operates and the intention to divert our forces”.

Russia reported on Sunday (12) that it captured nine villages in the Kharkiv region. This Monday (13), he commented that the troops improved their positions and caused losses to the defense forces.

The Ukrainian military said, in turn, that it “had pushed the enemy back” from the northern outskirts of the city. They added that they had “tactical successes” in several areas and that they were restoring their old positions.

Russian forces were prevented from advancing on the village of Lukyantsi, north of the city of Kharkiv, the military said, adding that Russia had, however, “partial success”.

A day after the start of the Russian offensive, Ukraine appointed Brigadier General Mykhailo Drapatyi to take command of the Kharkiv front, media outlet RBC-Ukraine reported.

Drapatyi previously led the liberation of the southern Kherson region in November 2022, before serving as deputy chief of staff.

Ukraine is on the defensive after a months-long slowdown in Western aid, especially from the United States, that has left Russia with an even greater advantage in troops and ammunition.

Russian shelling of the city of Vovchansk injured at least five people on Monday, including a 54-year-old woman, according to authorities.

Kiev's forces are managing to contain Moscow's troops, but there is a real risk that the fighting will spread to new regions, Syniehubov warned.

The Ukrainian military stated that it would continue to reinforce its forces in the area depending on the situation. The fighting reached the village of Starytsia, west of Vovchansk, according to the General Staff.

Volodymyr Tymoshko, head of the regional police, noted to public broadcaster Suspilne that Russia was heavily shelling the areas before trying to enter them.

“First, a certain area is bombarded with artillery, anti-aircraft guns, all living beings are burned, then they enter this area,” he reported.

Source: CNN Brasil

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