Ukraine beats back Russian attempt to cross border as Moscow seeks Kharkiv buffer zone: report

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The Ukrainian military has claimed it pushed back an attempted Russian incursion amid fears that Russian President Vladimir Putin will make renewed efforts to capture the city of Kharkiv

“Russia has launched a new wave of counteroffensive operations in the Kharkiv sector,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced Friday, claiming the Russians fought against his forces and that a fierce battle continued throughout the day. 

White House spokesperson John Kirby on Friday told reporters that Russia had commenced its offensive in Kharkiv, saying, “In the coming weeks, Russia will likely increase the intensity of fires” and increase troop deployments, but also stressing supreme confidence in the Ukrainian armed forces. 

Russia launched missiles, kamikaze drones and artillery attacks on Kharkiv overnight and into Friday morning. Russian officials claimed that their attacks hit ammunition stores and Ukrainian military personnel in the region, according to East2West news agency. 

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Ukrainian commanders have expected an offensive for a while, determining summer as the most likely time for Russia to launch an attack. They have long expected the Russians to target Kharkiv, which is the second-biggest city in Ukraine after the capital, Kyiv. 

Russia buffer zone

A view from the aftermath of an explosion of a Russian missile in the area of a cottage residential development in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Friday. (Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Kharkiv regional head Oleh Syniehubov claimed that Russian reconnaissance groups tried to cross the border during the attack, but insisted that “not a single meter has been lost,” the BBC reported

Ukraine missile strike

A view from the aftermath of an explosion of a Russian missile in the area of a cottage residential development in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Friday. (Stringer/Anadolu via Getty Images)

“At approximately 5:00, there was an attempt by our enemy to break through our defensive line under the cover of armored vehicles. As of now, these attacks have been repulsed, fighting of varying intensity continues,” the defense ministry said.

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Some have suspected that Russia aims to create a buffer zone between Ukraine and the Belgorod region, which Kharkiv would provide if it could be claimed.

Civilians escape Russia

Ukrainian volunteers assist residents of settlements in the north of the Kharkiv region during their evacuation amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Friday. (Sergey Bobok/AFP via Getty Images)

Residents of Kharkiv evacuated as the reserve troops arrived in the city to stage a defense. One civilian, 54-year-old Olena Kurylo, in an interview lamented, “We are not sleeping, again,” as another air raid siren sounded. 

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“We are at the end of our tether from tiredness,” she said, adding that she was too tired to even head into the basement for cover after what she claimed was the tenth siren, but she could not rest, either. 

“There hasn’t been a single quiet night for weeks,” Kurylo said. “We all know this is exactly their aim: To exhaust us, and to make us leave the city, so they can take it.” 

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Kurylo said that she lost her house on the first day of the war, which still lies in ruins, and she suffered damage to her eye. 

“They deprived me of everything, and I wanted to ask: Why? This is our land. This is home,” Kurylo said. “There is no reason why our huge neighbor is trying to destroy us. There is no excuse for millions of broken lives.” 

On Friday, the U.S. announced a new military aid package worth $400 million. The Department of Defense press release noted the package includes more munitions for Patriot air defense systems and NASAMS (National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems), as well as HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems). This is the second weapons package announced from the foreign aid supplemental that passed in the House and Senate last month. This comes from weapons already in U.S. stockpiles and will start to arrive in Ukraine within days.



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