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Russia launches new offensive – Kiev

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky claimed on Friday that Russian forces have launched a new large-scale offensive on his country’s Kharkov Region.

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The development was first announced by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, which claimed earlier in the day that Russian forces had attacked defensive positions near the border town of Volchansk. The assault was accompanied by heavy aerial bombardment, the ministry said, adding that fighting “of varying intensity” was continuing along Russia’s border with Kharkov Region.

The claims were further amplified by Vladimir Zelensky, with the president insisting that Ukrainian troops were well-prepared to repel Russian attacks in the area.

“Russia can bolster and pour in its forces, but we knew this and calculated everything,” Zelensky said during a news conference, after a meeting with the Slovak president in Kiev.

Some Ukrainian media reports, however, have said the Russian military was able to advance and has seized several settlements along the border. Ukrainian journalist Yury Butusov, widely believed to be associated with former President Pyotr Poroshenko, claimed that Russian forces have captured an area of roughly 30 square kilometers near the border, seizing the villages of Strelechye, Krasnoye, Pylnaya and Borisovka.

READ MORE: Russian military reports new gains in Ukraine’s Kharkov Region

Despite having intelligence on the looming assault, Ukrainian defenses in the area have proven to be ineffective, Butusov claimed. The journalist also suggested that the assault was on a relatively small scale, despite official claims to the contrary, with a force of up to five infantry battalions involved.

So far, Moscow has not provided any information on its purported activities in Kharkov Region. Over the past few months, the area has been used by Ukrainian forces to launch indiscriminate drone, artillery and missile attacks on Russian border regions, primarily Belgorod, and to stage multiple unsuccessful attempts to break through the border.

The Russian leadership has consistently warned Kiev and its Western backers against launching attacks deep into its territory, with President Vladimir Putin suggesting the creation of a “security zone” in Ukraine along the border, to prevent such strikes. Moscow has not provided any timeframe for when such a zone could be created, or how deep into Ukraine it would go.

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