Russia bombards Kharkiv but Ukrainians having ‘tactical successes’, says Zelenskiy | Ukraine

Russia has bombarded Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, as part of its renewed push in the east of the country, while claiming the “draft of a possible intermediary” between the two countries is being discussed on a daily basis.

One person was killed and five were killed “as a result of enemy artillery and mortar strikes”, Kharkiv’s regional military administration said on Telegram. Despite the bombardment, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said: “The situation in the Kharkiv region is tough. But our military, our intelligence, have important tactical success.”

Ukrainian forces said they had recaptured a “strategically important” village of Ruska Lozova, near Kharkiv, and evacuated hundreds of civilians.

One Kharkiv resident, Antonina, told AFP she returned home to find a rocket had smashed through her building and lodged in her bathroom. “When I came home, everything was destroyed … It was scary,” she said.

Three months into an invasion that failed in its short-term aim of capturing Kyiv, Russia is now intensifying operations in the eastern Donbas region and tightening its stranglehold on the devastated southern port city of Mariupol.

A senior Nato official said Russia had made only “minor” and “uneven” advances in their attempt to encircle enemy positions as Ukrainian forces counterattacked. The Pentagon said the Kremlin’s eastern offensive was “behind schedule” as strikes were failing to facilitate lightning ground offensives.

Russia has been forced to merge and redeploy units from failed advances in Ukraine’s north-east, the UK’s Ministry of Defense has said in its latest intelligence report released on Saturday morning. “Russia hopes to rectify issues that have previously constrained its invasion by geographically concentrating combat power, shortening supply lines and simplifying command and control.

Russia still faces considerable challenges. It has been forced to merge and redeploy depleted and disparate units from the failed advances in north-east Ukraine. Many of these units are likely suffering from weakened morale.

“Shortcomings in Russian tactical coordination remain. A lack of unit-level skills and inconsistent air support have left Russia unable to fully leverage its combat mass, despite localized improvements.”

Zelenskiy said in his address that Russia wanted to make Donbas “uninhabited”.

“The occupiers are doing everything to destroy any life in this area,” he said. “Constant brutal bombings, constant Russian strikes at infrastructure and residential areas show that Russia wants to make this area uninhabited.”

Zelenskiy described Mariupol as a “Russian concentration camp in the middle of ruins”.

“And the order of the occupiers in that part of Mariupol which they unfortunately still control differs insignificantly from what the Nazis did in the occupied territory of eastern Europe,” he said.

Ukrainian authorities said they had planned to evacuate civilians on Friday from the besieged Azovstal steel plant, the last holdout in Mariupol where hundreds were sheltering with Ukrainian troops.

Ukraine’s president called for a stronger global response to Thursday’s strikes on the capital Kyiv, which immediately followed his talks in the city with the UN’s secretary general, António Guterres. “It is unfortunate, but such a deliberate and brutal humiliation of the United Nations by Russia has gone unanswered,” he said.

Guterres had also toured Bucha and other Kyiv suburbs where Moscow is alleged to have committed war crimes. Russia denies killing civilians. Guterres posted online afterwards: “I was moved by the resilience and bravery of the people of Ukraine. My message to them is simple: we will not give up.”

Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, claimed that a million people had fled Ukraine for Russia. Ukraine says people have been taken over the border against their will.

Discussing the peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv, Lavrov, said the lifting of sanctions imposed on Russia was part of the negotiations. He said talks were “difficult” but continued daily by video conferencing.

Kyiv, though, has warned that talks are in danger of collapse, and Zelenskiy has insisted since the invasion that western sanctions on Russia needed to be strengthened and could not be part of negotiations. Ukraine and Russia have not held face-to-face peace talks since 29 March.

In his latest address, Zelenskiy also said Ukraine would soon stamp out fuel shortages, even though Russian forces had damaged a number of oil depots.

This week, Russia struck Ukraine’s main fuel producer, the Kremenchuk oil refinery, as well as several other large depots.

“Queues and rising prices at gas stations are seen in many regions of our country,” Zelenskiy said. “The occupiers are deliberately destroying the infrastructure for the production, supply and storage of fuel.

“Russia has also blocked our ports, so there are no immediate solutions to replenish the deficit.

“But government officials promise that within a week, maximum two, a system of fuel supply to Ukraine will be at work that will prevent shortages.”

The economy minister, Yulia Svyrydenko, said the shortages would be eliminated within a week, as Ukraine’s operators had secured contracts with European suppliers.

With Reuters, the Associated Press and AFP

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