Halting Russian offensive near Kharkiv is top priority, Zelenskyy says

KYIV, Ukraine (TNS) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said disrupting the Russian offensive near the northeastern city of Kharkiv is the army’s “number one task” at the moment.

“The accomplishment of this task depends on every soldier, every sergeant, every officer,” he said in his daily video address published on Saturday evening.


Russian troops have occupied five Ukrainian border villages north of Kharkiv, the Defense Ministry in Moscow announced on Saturday, largely confirming unofficial Ukrainian reports.

The villages named were Strilecha, Krasne, Pylne and Borisivka, located around 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of Kharkiv near the town of Lyptsi, as well as Ohirtseve near the city of Vovchansk.

The Russian army claimed to have eliminated a large number of Ukrainian soldiers and destroyed their equipment in the offensive, which began on Thursday night. This has not been independently confirmed, however.

In his address, Zelenskyy mentioned defensive operations near the villages of Strilecha, Krasne, Morokhovets, Oliinykove, Lukyantsi, Hatyshche and Pletenivka.

“For two days now, our troops have been conducting counterattack actions there, defending Ukrainian territory,” the Ukrainian president said.

Moscow reported that 34 Ukrainian soldiers had been captured. The number could not be verified, but pictures of some of the alleged soldiers were published on Russian Telegram channels — despite this being prohibited under international humanitarian law.

The Ukrainian authorities said many residents of the border area were brought to safety. Ukraine has been expecting a Russian attack near Kharkiv for some time. According to official information, its lines of defense are holding.

Military observers do not yet assess the Russian offensive as a direct attack on Kharkiv.

The Russian army wants to tie down Ukrainian troops and at the same time advance its artillery so far that it can fire on the city, according to military observers.

Earlier, the Ukrainian general staff said fighting was occurring in nine places along the front line in the Kharkiv area.

The latest battles come after the general staff reported that the enemy was deploying “ground troops and technology.”

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