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Thousands evacuated as Russia scores major gains in Ukraine’s Kharkiv

Evacuees from the Ukrainian village of Liptsi, near the Russian border, arrive at an evacuation point in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine on May 12, 2024. (Photo by The New York Times)

Thousands of Ukrainians have been evacuated from a border town as Russian forces are making progress in the Kharkiv region.

On Sunday, Russia said it had captured four more villages in the Kharkiv region.

Russia’s defense ministry said its troops had “advanced deeply into the enemy defenses”, a day after announcing the capture of five villages in Kharkiv region.

Kharkiv regional Governor Oleh Synehubov said Russian forces were “intensifying their shelling of Vovchansk.”

He added that about 6,000 residents have been evacuated from the area in the last few days.

Volodymyr Tymoshko, head of police in Kharkiv, said the border town was being attacked on three sides and Russian forces were on the outskirts.

Russian troops launched the operation against the Kharkiv region on Friday.

In his evening address on Sunday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky described the situation around Vovchansk as “extremely difficult.”

“Defensive battles and fierce fighting continue on a large part of our border,” Zelensky said.

“There are villages that have actually turned from a ‘grey zone’ into a combat zone, and the occupier is trying to gain a foothold in some of them, or simply use them for further advancement,” he said.

A “grey zone” is an area not fully controlled by either side.          

On the other side of the border in the Russian city of Belgorod, emergency services said 15 people were killed when a residential building was struck by a missile fired by Ukraine and shot down by Russia.

Ukraine has repeatedly been fatally attacking Belgorod in recent months.

Ukraine blames delays in Western aid and manpower shortages for the losses it faces on the battlefield.

Russia launched the “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Western countries have responded by backing Ukraine with cash and heavy weaponry while imposing unprecedented sanctions on Russian officials and entities.

Moscow has repeatedly warned that such a flow of weapons to Kiev will only prolong the conflict.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, the US, alone, has pledged more than $44 billion in security aid to Ukraine.

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