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US tells Ukraine 'aid on its way' as Russia claims advances

By AFP - May 15,2024 - Last updated at May 15,2024

This handout photo taken and released by the Ukrainian foreign ministry press service on Tuesday (AFP photo)

KYIV, Ukraine — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured Ukraine on Tuesday that US military aid was "on its way", as Russia claimed a "deep" advance into Ukrainian defensive lines in a new offensive.

Blinken's trip comes just weeks after the US Congress finally approved a $61-billion financial aid package for Ukraine after months of political wrangling, unlocking much-needed arms for the country's stretched troops.

"The assistance is now on its way. Some of it has already arrived. More will be arriving," Blinken told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

"That's going to make a real difference against the ongoing Russian aggression on the battlefield," he said.

Zelensky thanked Washington for the aid, saying it was "crucial" and added that it was "important to get it as quickly as possible".

Zelensky said air defence was the "biggest problem" for Ukraine and requested two Patriot batteries for the Kharkiv region, where Russian forces have been advancing and pounding villages all along the border since Friday.

Blinken was on his fourth visit to Kyiv since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

After meeting Zelensky, he met Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Veterano, a pizzeria set up by a military veteran in the city centre.

Russia's surprise ground offensive in the Kharkiv region has forced thousands to evacuate and pushed Kyiv to mobilise troop reinforcements.

Ukraine said several civilians have been killed by Russian fire in the region, including on Tuesday two aged 80 and 83.

The governor of the Kharkiv region said 15 people were wounded by Russian strikes in the border territory's largest city, also called Kharkiv.

One civilian, a 47-year-old man, was also reported killed in the city of Nikopol in southern Ukraine.

In a call to Zelensky, French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the "intensification of Russian strikes" and the Kharkiv offensive.

In Moscow, Russia’s defence ministry said on Tuesday its forces had captured another village in the Kharkiv region.

“Units of the North group of troops liberated the village of Bugruvatka in the Kharkiv region and advanced deep into the enemy defence,” the ministry said in a statement.

The advance is the latest in a string of tactical successes for Russia on the battlefield this year after initial setbacks in a conflict that Russia hoped would be wrapped up in a matter of days.

Russia’s incoming defence minister, economist Andrei Belousov, said that Moscow’s priority was to secure victory on the battlefield against Ukraine while minimising human losses.

“The key task, of course, remains achieving victory and ensuring the military-political goals of the special military operation, set by the president, are achieved,” Belousov told a session of the Russian parliament on Tuesday.

“In this respect, I want to especially emphasise ‘with minimal human losses’.”

The Ukrainian army has acknowledged Russian successes in Kharkiv but Zelensky has stressed that reinforcements have been sent there and Ukrainian “counterattacks are ongoing”.

At a checkpoint outside the city of Kharkiv, a Ukrainian official said Russian forces had entered Ukraine through “villages on the very border, which was complicated for us to defend”.

Russian forces “are on high ground and are shelling us from there”, added Volodymyr Usov, head of the Kharkiv district military administration.

The head of Ukraine’s security council, Oleksandr Lytvynenko, said Moscow had massively upped its troop deployment for the new offensive in the Kharkiv region.

In an interview this week with AFP, he said Russia had sent more than 30,000 troops over Russia’s border.

But he added that there was no threat of an assault on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

Usov, the Kharkiv district head, estimated there were still around 300 residents left in Lyptsi, a border village under Russian bombardment.

“They are shelling the villages, firing on everything they can,” Sergiy Kryvetchenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian military administration in Lyptsi, told AFP.

Guided aerial bombs are falling “like rain” said one serviceman, who was resting after fending off Russian assaults in Lyptsi.

 

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