Criminologists carry the body of an elderly man after an aerial bombardment by Russia in Kharkiv on Sunday - Global Images Ukraine

Criminologists carry the body of an elderly man after an aerial bombardment by Russia in Kharkiv on Sunday - Global Images Ukraine

The Telegraph:  Russia is withdrawing some of its forces from Vovchansk after becoming “bogged down” in the now-destroyed town north east of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian military has said.

A spokesman for Ukraine’s Khortytsia military group said that Russian forces had also been pulling back from the border villages of Lyptsi and Tykhe.

“This indicates that the enemy has suspended its active hostilities in that area as they have not conducted any operations there over the past day and in the morning,” Nazar Voloshyn said.

Ukraine has stationed thousands of soldiers near the border after Russia launched a surprise cross-border attack at the start of May that went six miles into Ukrainian territory.

Earlier this month, General Oleksandr Syrsky, the commander of Ukraine’s military, said Russian forces had become “bogged down” in fighting focused on Vovchansk, 40 miles from Kharkiv.

General Oleksandr Syrsky, the commander of Ukraine's military, said Russian forces had struggled in Vovchansk - VALENTYN OGIRENKO/REUTERS

The US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) believes that Russia ordered the cross-border attack to draw Ukrainian soldiers away from the front line in the Donbas region, rather than actually take Kharkiv.

“Some Ukrainian forces have redeployed units to the Kharkiv direction from Donetsk Oblast, so Russian forces may be exploiting this perceived weakness of Ukrainian lines to intensify attacks, particularly in the Toretsk-Horlivka direction,” it said.

Toretsk is a town lying on the front line between Bakhmut and Donetsk that has been relatively quiet, although this week, eyewitnesses have reported intense Russian attacks.

Ukrainian servicemen gather near Kharkiv on Tuesday - SERGEY KOZLOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The ISW said the Kharkiv diversionary attacks may have been planned ahead of a Russian summer offensive in the Donbas region.

“Russia will conduct a summer offensive that will likely focus on Ukraine’s east after pursuing offensive operations in the north intended to stretch Ukraine’s scarce resources,” it said.

Along Russia’s border north of Kharkiv, reports said that the Russian authorities have increased efforts to evacuate residents. The area has come under intense fire since the US gave Ukraine permission for limited strikes against targets in Russia at the end of last month to stop the Kremlin from using the border area as a safe staging zone to prepare its forces for attacks into Ukraine.

A school in Kharkiv lies in ruins on Sunday after a Russian attack - Vitalii Hnidyi/REUTERS

And Ukraine’s military said on Sunday that it had hit the base of a Russian motorised rifle regiment in this border area, although this could not be independently verified.

“According to the results of combat work, explosions were recorded. The target was successfully hit,” it said in a statement.

Separately, the Russian ministry of defence boasted that it had deployed soldiers on “Mad Max”-style motorbikes who speed across open ground to launch surprise attacks against Ukrainian units, especially around the flat open fields which surround the town of Vuhledar, south west of Donetsk.

“Motorcycles are almost standard equipment here,” the Russian ministry of defence said. “It is very difficult to hit such a small and extremely manoeuvrable target. The fighters roll into the trenches of the armed forces of Ukraine at speed and immediately enter battle.”

Russia’s use of motorbikes on the battlefield has been mocked and drawn comparisons to the anarchic Mad Max films as some have been fitted with metal cages to defend against drone attacks.

Ukraine has claimed multiple successes against Russian motorbike fighters. In May, it said its soldiers had destroyed eight motorbikes in a single battle.


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