Written by 16:37 World

Russia Plans New Ukraine Offensive as Zelensky Urges Biden and Xi to Join Peace Summit

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said on Sunday that Moscow’s forces were massing for a new ground offensive on the northeast of his country, a day after a Russian missile strike on a hardware superstore in the city of Kharkiv killed at least 16 people and wounded dozens more, according to Ukrainian officials.

“Russia is the only source of aggression and constantly tries to expand the war,” Mr. Zelensky said in a speech delivered in English inside the ruins of a publishing house in Kharkiv that was destroyed last week in a Russian strike.

“Russia is preparing for offensive actions,” around 60 miles northwest of Kharkiv, he said, adding that Moscow was gathering “another group of troops near our border.” Mr. Zelensky gave no further details about the potential attack.

Moscow surprised Ukraine on May 10 when its troops poured across the northeastern border, punching through Ukrainian defenses and seizing villages close to the frontier. That forced the government in Kyiv to rush in reinforcements in a bid to halt the Russian advance.

One target for an assault, based on Mr. Zelensky’s comments, could be the Sumy region in northeastern Ukraine, which has seen frequent cross-border fire but no ground attacks since Russian forces attempted to seize its main city, also called Sumy, at the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022. They were later forced to withdraw after fierce fighting. Ukraine’s military has previously warned of another Russian border assault in the northeast. A spokesman for Ukraine’s border guard service, Andriy Demchenko, told Ukrainian television on Sunday that it did not appear that the Russian forces gathered near the frontier were sufficient to mount a major attack.

But even a limited increase in Russian military activity near the border “could have the effect of stretching Ukrainian forces along a wider front,” according to the Institute for the Study of War, a research organization based in Washington. This would be true even if Russia only “threatens penetrations” of border areas beyond Kharkiv, the institute said last week.

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Last modified: 27 May 2024
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