Russian control is loosening in Kharkov, Ukraine’s second-largest city, which has been shelled since late February, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday night, while the conflict could spread to the southwest, Washington warned.

“Our armed forces have given us good news in the Kharkov region. The occupiers are gradually being expelled from Kharkov,” President Volodimir Zelensky said in a video.

“I thank all of our fighters, who stand firm and show superhuman strength to drive off the invading army,” he added.

“The towns of Cherkasy Tychky, Rusky Tychky, Rubijne and Bayrak were liberated” in the Kharkov region, the east, the Ukrainian general staff said on Facebook. “Thus, the enemy was pushed further away from Kharkiv and the occupiers had even fewer opportunities to attack that regional center,” he added.

But “the intensity of shelling in the Kharkov district has increased,” he said. Furthermore, according to Oleg Snegubov, head of the Kharkiv regional administration, “by retreating, the Russian occupiers leave behind deadly traps,” referring to the mines.

The northern and northeastern districts of Kharkov, which had about 1.5 million inhabitants before the war, have been bombarded by Russian rockets for weeks, killing civilians.

In February, the Russians tried to take the city but to no avail: the Ukrainian forces resisted and drove them back several kilometers with heavy fighting.

The US Institute for the Study of War (ISW) noted late last week that, in this eastern part of the country, the Ukrainian army “has made significant progress and will probably advance to the Russian border in the next few days or so.” weeks”.

This also seems to confirm the trend that has emerged on the eastern front during this third month of Russian invasion: on one side, Ukrainian units are counterattacking and advancing east of Kharkov, while on the other, the Russians are slowly nibbling the ground about 150 km southeast of the Ukrainian advance, towards the area of ​​Donbas that is not yet under Russian or pro-Russian separatist control.

The “second phase” of the “special military operation” announced by Moscow called for the complete seizure of Donbas, and the fighting is especially intense in the Lugansk region.

But attention is also focused on the southwest of the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to “spread” the conflict into Transnistria, the region from Moldova that broke away in 1990, US intelligence chief Avril Haines said on Tuesday.

On April 22, a Russian general, Rustam Minnekaiev, argued that “control of southern Ukraine is also a corridor to Transnistria, where there are also cases of oppression of the Russian-speaking population.” The defense of the Russophones is one of the justifications for the current war.

In addition to Crimea, annexed in 2014, Russian forces occupy a large part of southern Ukraine, in particular the regional capital of Kherson. According to the Ukrainian command in the south, Russian troops are “mercilessly” hitting the Mykolaiv region, which represents the last barrier before Odessa in the west.

“Private houses and agricultural facilities were damaged and the power supply to one of the towns was interrupted,” the command said Tuesday night. Odessa, a major cultural center for Ukrainians and Russians, has been hit sporadically by Russian missiles since the start of the conflict. This Russian-speaking port city received a surprise visit on Monday from the President of the European Council, Charles Michel.

Near Odessa, “the psychological pressure on the neighboring population of Transnistria”, with “the possible blockade of the region due to the disabling of the Dniestr bridge, which was again attacked by missiles”, assured the Ukrainian command in the south of the country .

In late April and early May, explosions rocked Transnistria, which has been home to Russian troops for some 30 years. Russia said it was “alarmed” by these “terrorist acts” and said it was following the situation closely.

For its part, the European Union (EU) announced on May 4 that it would “significantly increase” its military aid to Moldova. The small country, which is not a member of NATO, also received support from Paris and Berlin.

In the southeast, Russian forces again bombed the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where dozens of Ukrainians, soldiers and civilians remain entrenched.

“Dozens of attacks,” “every hour,” Petro Andriushchenko, deputy mayor of this port city seized by the Russians and almost completely destroyed, wrote on Telegram. The US intelligence chief also said Putin is counting on Western support for Ukraine drying up and preparing for “a protracted conflict,” for which he will “probably” impose martial law on Russia.

That could lead to a “more unpredictable trajectory and potentially escalation” in the coming months, according to Haines. In kyiv, which has been almost empty since the beginning of the Russian invasion, almost two thirds of its 3.5 million inhabitants have returned, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Tuesday. In the evening, Klitschko announced the death of the first president of independent Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk (1990-1994), at the age of 88.

The elderly leader returned to the political scene in 2020 when Zelensky asked him to be one of the Ukrainian negotiators in the dialogue with Russia on the conflict in Donbas.

On the other hand, the United States House of Representatives approved a package of almost 40,000 million dollars in aid for Ukraine on Tuesday night, promoted by President Joe Biden. The text includes an economic and humanitarian component, as well as weapons and ammunition. It still needs to be voted on soon by the Senate before being signed into law by President Biden.

As for sanctions against Russia, negotiations continue on a draft EU embargo on Russian oil, currently blocked by Hungary.

It is possible that an agreement will be reached “in a week”, the French secretary for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, assured on Tuesday.

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https://www.elmundo.es/internacional/2022/05/11/627bc4d2e4d4d87a3e8b45c2.html

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