Putin wants to create “block zone” in Kharkiv, Ukraine launches drones over Russia and Crimea (813th day of war)

Russia has no intention of seizing Kharkiv, the second-largest Ukrainian city, where Moscow forces opened a new front a week ago, Vladimir Putin said on Friday, the last day of his state visit to China and during a speech on the Kremlin website. Instead, Moscow wants to create a “blocking zone” there.

The Russian president has blamed Ukraine for intensifying Russian military operations along the country’s northeastern border. “As for what is happening around Kharkiv, it is their fault,” Putin charged, adding that Kiev troops “are shelling and, unfortunately, continue to hit residential areas in the border areas, including Belgorod.”

“I have said publicly that if this continues, we will be forced to create a buffer zone, a buffer zone. This is what we do,” he declared, “no plans [para tomar Kharkiv] for now”.

In recent days, the Russian military has expanded its active combat zone by nearly 70 kilometers by launching an offensive in the city, Ukrainian army chief Oleksandr Chirsky told Reuters on Friday. According to the military official, the Russian operation in Kharkiv was initiated to send additional reserve brigades to Ukraine and, in this way, further weaken it at a time when it is facing a shortage of soldiers and ammunition.

This week, Russia made significant advances in the Kharkiv area, announcing the capture of several villages and towns and leading to the evacuation of thousands of civilians, particularly from Vovchansk, a municipality that has been pressured by the most recent Russian incursion. The head of the Kharkiv military administration, Oleg Tsinigubov, said on his social networks this Friday that the city is still under Ukrainian control, despite the extremely difficult situation.

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While focusing primarily on security, Kiev launched several counterattacks from various positions in the Kharkiv region, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address Thursday night. On the other hand, the head of state also noted the intensification of fighting in other areas of the Donetsk region, where Russia continues to advance.

Besides fending off Russian attacks on various fronts, Ukraine is focusing on long-range military operations using drones. According to The Kyiv Independent, Ukrainian forces launched a massive drone strike last night along the Russian border, in border areas and on the Crimean peninsula, targeting military and energy infrastructure as well as oil terminals and deposits.

In Telegram, the Russian Defense Minister said 102 drones had been intercepted in various parts of the country, including Belgorod, Krasnodar and Crimea. Satellite images obtained Thursday by the Maxxer Technologies show Three Russian fighter jets were reportedly destroyed by Ukrainian forces in a long-range attack.

Other news for tomorrow:

⇒ The Ukrainian president warned that new Russian attacks on gas infrastructure in western Ukraine could threaten the EU’s energy security. In the aforementioned televised address, Zelenskiy spoke by phone with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, saying that “we must find a way to face this challenge together.” In recent days, some Ukrainian cities, including Kiev, have again suffered power outages.

⇒ In the face of increasing pressure from Russian forces on Kharkiv, Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, called for more patriotic formations to be sent to Ukraine in a message posted on his Telegram channel. “Russia has failed to capture Kharkiv and continues to terrorize civilians from the air,” he lamented.

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⇒ Seven people were injured in an explosion at the Russian military academy in St. Petersburg, according to the news services of the local military district, quoted by EFE agency. Initially, local press attributed the incident to a Ukrainian drone, but the Russian military rejected this hypothesis and said the accidental detonation of World War II munitions was most likely the cause.

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