June 12th, 2024

Putin says Russia wants buffer zone in Ukraine’s Kharkiv but has no plans to capture the city

By Illia Novikov, The Associated Press on May 17, 2024.

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region aims to create a buffer zone but has no plans to capture the city.

Speaking to reporters Friday on a visit to Harbin, China, Putin said that Moscow launched attacks in the Kharkiv region in response to the Ukrainian shelling of Russia’s Belgorod region.

“I have said publicly that if it continues we will be forced to create a security zone, a sanitary zone,” he said.

Putin said that Russian troops were “advancing daily in according to plan.”

He added that Russia has no plans to capture Kharkiv for now.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – A massive Ukrainian drone attack on Crimea early Friday caused power cutoffs in the city of Sevastopol while damaging aircraft and fuel storage at an airbase, and set a refinery ablaze in the country’s south, Russian authorities said.

The drone raids marked Kyiv’s attempt to strike back during Moscow’s offensive in northeastern Ukraine, which has added to the pressure on outnumbered and outgunned Ukrainian forces who are waiting for delayed deliveries of crucial weapons and ammunition from Western partners.

A Ukrainian intelligence official confirmed Ukraine’s Security Service and Military Intelligence conducted a joint operation to strike Russia’s military infrastructure objects in Novorossiysk and the occupied Sevastopol. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.

The operation was aimed to strike Russian Black Sea Fleet’s ships and vessels and was conducted by aerial drones built in Ukraine, the official said.

At least three fighter jets were destroyed in the attack, according to satellite imagery of the airbase provided by Maxar Technologies.

The Russian Defense Ministry said air defenses downed 51 Ukrainian drones over Crimea, another 44 over the Krasnodar region and six over the Belgorod region. It said Russian warplanes and patrol boats also destroyed six sea drones in the Black Sea.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the governor of Sevastopol, which is the main base for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, said the drone attack damaged the city’s power plant. He said it could take a day to fully restore energy supplies and warned residents that power would be cut to parts of the city.

“Communal services are doing their best to restore the power system as quickly as possible,” he said in a statement.

Razvozhayev also announced that schools in the city would be closed temporarily.

Earlier Ukrainian attacks damaged aircraft and a fuel storage facility at Belbek air base near Sevastopol, according to satellite images released by Maxar Technologies.

In the Krasnodar region, the authorities said a drone attack early Friday caused a fire at an oil refinery in Tuapse which was later contained. There were no casualties.

Ukraine has repeatedly targeted refineries and other energy facilities deep inside Russia, causing significant damage.

Ukrainian drones also attacked Novorossiysk, a major Black Sea port. The Krasnodar region’s governor, Veniamin Kondratyev, said fragments of downed drones caused several fires but there were no casualties.

Belgorov Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said a Ukrainian drone struck a vehicle, killing a woman and her 4-year-old child. Another attack set a fuel tank ablaze at a gas station in the region, he said.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops were fighting to halt Russian advances in the northeastern Kharkiv region that began late last week.

The town of Vovchansk, located just 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the Russian border, has been a hot spot in the fighting in recent days. Ukrainian authorities have evacuated some 8,000 civilians from the town. The Russian army’s usual tactic is to reduce towns and villages to ruins with aerial strikes before its units move in.

By starting a new offensive in the north of Kharkiv region on May 10, Russian troops have “expanded the zone of active hostilities by almost 70 kilometers,” in an effort to force Ukraine spread its forces and use the reserve troops, Ukraine’s military chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said on Friday.

According to Syrskyi, having strengthened their grouping in the northern region, the Russian army is now concentrating its efforts to advance near the village of Lyptsi and the town of Vovchansk.

Syrskyi also said he inspected the units that are “preparing for defense” of Ukraine’s northern Sumy region. Earlier this week, on Tuesday, head of Ukraine’s Military Intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, reportedly said that the Russian army had plans to start offensive actions in Sumy region.

Russia has also been testing defenses at other points along the roughly 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line snaking from north to south through eastern Ukraine. That line has barely changed over the past 18 months in what became a war of attrition. Recent Russian attacks have come in the eastern Donetsk region, as well as the Chernihiv and Sumy regions in the north and in the southern Zaporizhzhia region. The apparent aim is to stretch depleted Ukrainian resources and exploit weaknesses.

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Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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