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Ukraine Withdraws Troops from Kharkiv Villages Amid Russian Pressure

Ukraine has withdrawn its troops from several villages in the border region of Kharkiv due to sustained pressure from Russian forces. Soldiers faced heavy fire and relocated to “more advantageous positions” in two areas of the northeastern region, according to a military spokesperson.

Throughout the two-year conflict, Ukraine has typically used such terminology to indicate a retreat.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has canceled all upcoming foreign trips as troops struggle to manage the new cross-border incursion, with multiple towns and villages coming under intense fire.

Presidential press secretary Sergiy Nykyforov announced that the president had “instructed that all international events scheduled for the coming days be postponed and new dates coordinated.”

Moscow claims its forces have now taken control of two additional settlements in the region—Lukyantski and Hlyboke—as well as another in the Zaporizhzhia region. Ukraine has not yet commented on these claims.

A Ukrainian military spokesperson stated that the decision to withdraw troops from the Lukyantsi and Vovchansk areas was made to “preserve the lives of our servicemen and avoid losses.”

The loss of Vovchansk, though not of specific military significance, would represent a psychological blow to Ukrainian morale.

The military spokesperson added that the situation “remains difficult” but emphasized that Ukrainian forces were “not allowing the Russian occupiers to gain a foothold.”

Ukraine’s head of intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, had earlier indicated that troops had stabilized the front line.

Thousands of civilians have fled west in recent days towards Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, including from the town of Vovchansk, located 74km (45 miles) away.

Oleksiy Kharkivskiy, Vovchansk’s police chief, reported on social media that fighting was intense and Russian forces were establishing positions within the town. “The situation is extremely difficult. The enemy is taking positions on the streets of the town of Vovchansk,” he said.

Kyiv has sent reinforcements to the broader Kharkiv region following Friday’s incursion, which is seen as one of Russia’s most significant ground attacks since it launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

“Additional forces are being deployed, and there are reserves,” President Zelensky’s office announced on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting Kyiv, making him the first senior US official to travel to Ukraine since Congress passed a $61 billion aid package last month.

Away from Kharkiv, Russia announced earlier that it had temporarily closed two major airports in the southwestern region of Kazan following targeted Ukrainian drone attacks. Ukraine has not commented on the strike.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated on Wednesday that Ukrainian attacks in Russia’s Belgorod border region demonstrated the “criminality” of Kyiv and the Western powers that support it.

Unlike with Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia, Kyiv has reluctantly agreed with Western allies not to use the missiles they provide on targets inside Russia itself.

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