The Ukrainian army talks about a “difficult situation” in Kharkiv… and the flight of thousands of civilians

Thousands of people have been evacuated from border areas with Russia in the Ukrainian Kharkiv region, while Russia continues its strikes on a major town as part of a surprise ground attack it launched two days ago, officials said on Sunday.

Ukraine announced, on Friday, that Russia had begun a ground attack in Kharkiv, and had achieved slight progress in the border region, large areas of which Moscow had controlled in 2022, before Kiev regained it.

The governor of the region, Oleg Sinigubov, said on social media platforms, “A total of 4,073 people were evacuated,” the day after Russian forces announced their control of five villages in this region.

On Sunday, Sengubov confirmed that a 63-year-old man was killed by artillery fire in the village of Glebok, and another 38-year-old was wounded in the border town of Vovchansk, which had a population of about three thousand people before the current attack.

“The city is under constant fire,” said policeman Oleksiy Kharkovsky, who is helping to coordinate the evacuations.

Speaking at an evacuation point in a village near Vovchansk, he added, “Everything in the city was destroyed… Explosions, artillery shelling, and mortar shells can constantly be heard. The enemy is hitting the city with everything it has.”

Shooting at evacuation teams

Kharkovsky pointed out the death of a person who was trapped under the rubble at night, and “several people were killed by bombing,” on Saturday.

He estimated that about 1,500 people had been evacuated or fled from Vovchansk since Friday, noting that there had been 32 strikes and marches on the town in the last 24 hours.

He noted that the evacuation teams came under fire “several times.”

Saturday, AFP reporters saw groups of people arriving in pickup trucks and cars and carrying bags at an evacuation arrival point outside the city of Kharkiv. The evacuees registered their names and received food and medical aid in temporary tents.

Lyubov Nikolaeva (61 years old) told AFP that she fled the border village of Liptsi with her 81-year-old mother, adding, “It is impossible to live there.”

She pointed out that her family “stayed there until the last minute,” adding, “There is continuous fire, guided aerial bombs and mortar shells are roaring overhead. The situation has become very frightening.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed on Saturday that Ukrainian forces were carrying out counterattacks in the border villages in the Kharkiv region, saying, “We must disrupt Russian offensive operations and return the initiative to Ukraine.”

He added, “All air defense systems and anti-missile systems are important to save lives.”

“It is important that our partners support our soldiers and Ukraine’s resilience through truly timely deliveries of weapons and ammunition,” he continued.

Ukrainian forces intensified their attacks inside Russian territory and areas controlled by Russia in Ukraine, especially on energy infrastructure.

Officials in Kiev have warned for weeks that Moscow may attempt to launch an attack on the northeastern border regions, pointing to its superiority at a time when Ukraine is suffering from the delayed arrival of Western aid and the shortage of supplies.

Military expert Olivier Kempf told Agence France-Presse on Saturday that the Russian ground attack may aim to create a buffer zone near the Belgorod region, which was recently raided by pro-Ukrainian units, or to divert Ukraine’s resources from the Donetsk region.

Washington announced a $400 million military aid package to Kiev hours after the attack began, expressing its confidence that Ukraine is capable of repelling any new Russian campaign.

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