Zelenskyy: Ukraine Engaged in 'Fierce' Battles on Border with Russia

Recent shelling escalates tensions in Russia's Belgorod region

by Zain ul Abedin
Zelenskyy: Ukraine Engaged in 'Fierce' Battles on Border with Russia
© Chris McGrath/Getty Images

In the shadow of escalating tensions, Ukrainian forces are currently engaged in severe combat against a significant Russian offensive along the border, as reported by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. This announcement comes amid reports of increased casualties resulting from an apartment building collapse in Russia, attributed to Ukrainian shelling, which has now claimed 15 lives.

Zelenskyy conveyed the gravity of the situation in his latest nightly address, highlighting that Ukrainian troops, though outnumbered and less equipped, are fiercely contesting Russian advances in eastern and northeastern Ukraine.

"Our soldiers are fighting valiantly across a vast portion of our border areas," he stated, painting a picture of a nation under siege but resolute in its defense. According to Ukraine's general staff, the last 24 hours have witnessed no fewer than 22 separate Russian assaults in the Kharkiv region alone, with the invaders achieving some tactical gains.

The details of these advances remain sparse, but the implications are clear: Russia is pushing hard to capitalize on any perceived Ukrainian vulnerabilities before the anticipated arrival of additional military aid from Western allies.

This surge in conflict intensity coincides with a strategic push by the Kremlin in both the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, following a period of relative stalemate along the extensive 1,000-kilometer frontline. Both sides have predominantly engaged in long-range artillery duels in recent months, turning the conflict into a protracted war of attrition.

Belgorod Under Siege

The recent offensive near Kharkiv is perceived by some analysts as an attempt to establish a defensive buffer zone to protect the adjacent Russian territory of Belgorod, which has been subjected to frequent Ukrainian strikes, much to the Kremlin’s chagrin.

In a move underscoring the severity of the situation, Russia announced in March the evacuation of approximately 9,000 children from Belgorod due to continuous shelling. On the Russian side, emergency services have recently completed debris removal in Belgorod, where a section of a residential building collapsed under the impact of what Russian authorities claim was Ukrainian shelling.

The tragedy has resulted in 15 fatalities and left 27 others injured. Additional casualties continued to mount with more shelling over the weekend claiming three lives in Belgorod. Amid these developments, Russian military correspondent Yevgeny Poddubny reported that the intensified efforts in Kharkiv signal "a new phase" in the conflict, aimed at pushing back Ukrainian forces and mitigating the threat to Belgorod.

In a significant political move, Russian President Vladimir Putin replaced Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, marking a major cabinet reshuffle as the conflict intensifies. This change is seen as a critical pivot point in Russia’s military strategy, which had initially anticipated a swift victory over Ukraine.

As the battlefront expands, Zelenskyy warns that intense fighting will continue in Donetsk, paralleling the hardships faced in Kharkiv. He accuses the Kremlin of attempting to "spread our forces thin," highlighting the strategic importance of the ongoing struggles in both regions.