Written by 06:54 World

Russians Poured Over Ukraine’s Border. There Was Little to Stop Them.

Russian troops punched across Ukraine’s northern border with such speed and force last week that Ukraine’s meager fortifications offered almost no obstacle. Some Ukrainian soldiers, caught totally by surprise, fell back from their positions, and villages that had been liberated nearly two years earlier suddenly came under relentless shelling, forcing hundreds to flee in scenes reminiscent of the early days of the war.

“They are erasing streets,” said Tetiana Novikova, 55, a retired factory worker who said she barely escaped with her life on Friday when her village of Vovchansk came under withering fire from Russian forces. As she fled the village where she had spent her whole life, she said, not a single Ukrainian soldier was in sight.

The stunning incursion into the Kharkiv Region lays bare the challenges facing Ukraine’s weary and thinly stretched forces as Russia ramps up its summer offensive. The Russian troops pouring over the border enjoyed a huge advantage in artillery shells and employed air power, including fighter jets and heavy glide bombs, to disastrous effect, unhindered by depleted Ukrainian air defenses.

Once over the border, the Russian soldiers easily pushed past fortifications — like trenches, land mines and tank barriers — some of which, Ukrainian troops said, were insufficient or sloppily constructed.

But the biggest challenge for Ukrainian forces is people. Ground down over more than two years of war, Ukraine’s military is struggling to come up with enough soldiers to effectively defend the 600-mile front line, even as Russian forces have swelled with thousands of newly mobilized troops.


Last modified: 20 May 2024