US vows security for Ukraine as Russian forces make advances

The United States will back Ukraine until its security is "guaranteed", US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said on a trip to Kiev, hours after Russian forces claimed further advances in the northeastern Kharkiv region.

Blinken's visit comes just weeks after the US Congress finally approved a $61-billion financial aid package for Ukraine following months of political wrangling, unlocking much-needed arms for the country's outgunned troops.

"We're with you today. And we will stay by your side, until Ukraine's security, sovereignty, and ability to choose its own path is guaranteed," Blinken said in a speech on Tuesday.

"The assistance is now on its way. Some of it has already arrived. More will be arriving," he had told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during a meeting earlier.

"That's going to make a real difference against the ongoing Russian aggression on the battlefield," he said.

Zelenskyy thanked Washington for the aid, which he said was "crucial" –– but stressed it was "important to get it as quickly as possible".

"We need a noticeable acceleration of supplies. Now too much time passes between the announcement of packages and the actual appearance of weapons on the frontline," he said in an evening address.

Zelenskyy said air defence was the "biggest problem" for Ukraine and requested two Patriot batteries for the Kharkiv region, where Russian forces have been advancing and pounding villages along the border since Friday.

Blinken was on his fourth visit to Kiev since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

After meeting Zelenskyy, he met Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Veterano, a pizzeria set up by a military veteran in the city centre.

'Minimal human losses'

Russia's surprise ground offensive in the Kharkiv region has forced thousands to evacuate and pushed Kiev to mobilise troop reinforcements.

Ukraine said several civilians have been killed by Russian fire in the region, including on Tuesday two aged 80 and 83.

The governor of the Kharkiv region said 15 people were wounded by Russian strikes in the border territory's largest city, also called Kharkiv.

One civilian, a 47-year-old man, was also reported killed in the city of Nikopol in southern Ukraine.

In a call to Zelenskyy, French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the "intensification of Russian strikes" and the Kharkiv offensive.

Russia's defence ministry, meanwhile, said its forces had captured another village in the Kharkiv region.

"Units of the North group of troops liberated the village of Bugruvatka in the Kharkiv region and advanced deep into the enemy defence," the ministry said in a statement.

The advance is the latest in a string of tactical successes for Russia on the battlefield this year after initial setbacks in a conflict that Russia hoped would be wrapped up in days.

Russia's incoming defence minister, economist Andrei Belousov, said that Moscow's priority was to secure victory on the battlefield against Ukraine while minimising human losses.

"The key task, of course, remains achieving victory and ensuring the military-political goals of the special military operation, set by the president, are achieved," Belousov told a session of the Russian parliament on Tuesday.

"In this respect, I want to especially emphasise 'with minimal human losses'."

'Firing on everything'

The Ukrainian army has acknowledged Russian successes in Kharkiv but Zelenskyy has stressed that reinforcements have been sent there and Ukrainian "counterattacks are ongoing".

At a checkpoint outside the city of Kharkiv, a Ukrainian official said Russian forces had entered Ukraine through "villages on the very border that were complicated for us to defend".

Russian forces "are on high ground and are shelling us from there", added Volodymyr Usov, head of the Kharkiv district military administration.

The head of Ukraine's security council, Oleksandr Lytvynenko, said Moscow had massively upped its troop deployment for the new offensive in the Kharkiv region.

In an interview this week with AFP news agency, he said Russia had sent more than 30,000 troops over the border.

But he added that there was no threat of an assault on Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city.

Usov, the Kharkiv district head, estimated there were still around 300 residents left in Lyptsi, a border village under Russian bombardment.

"They are shelling the villages, firing on everything they can," Sergiy Kryvetchenko, deputy head of the Ukrainian military administration in Lyptsi, told AFP.

Guided aerial bombs are falling "like rain" said one serviceman, who was resting after fending off Russian assaults in Lyptsi.


Source: TRT