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Ukraine halts Russia’s Kharkiv advance, Putin says offensive aims to create buffer zone


But Ukraine and its allies signaled that the Russian offensive could be contained.

“The Russians don’t have the numbers necessary to do a strategic breakthrough, we don’t believe,” said U.S. General Christopher Cavoli, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

“More to the point, they don’t have the skill and the capability to do it; to operate at the scale necessary to exploit any breakthrough to strategic advantage,” Cavoli told reporters Thursday, adding that he was confident that Ukrainians will hold the line.

Zelenskyy said in his nightly address after visiting the front that his forces “have managed to build confidence in the direction of Vovchansk.”

But Ukrainian officials say they expect new attacks elsewhere.

Army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said Friday the Russians had expanded the zone of combat in the region by 43 miles, trying to force Ukraine’s command to use additional reserves. Syrskyi said Russia launched the offensive “well ahead of schedule” but failed to break through Kyiv’s defense lines.

Still, he said he inspected units that are preparing to defend the neighboring Sumy region, raising the prospect that it could be the next focus for Moscow’s troops.

A sergeant based near the border community of Kozacha Lopan, 33 miles northwest of Vovchansk, told NBC News that Russian forces were shooting at them with artillery, rocket launchers and drones, but that there had been “no serious contact” yet in his position.

“They are probing us,” said the soldier, who goes by the call sign “Marine.” He also said he had seen much more intense fighting defending the Kharkiv region in May 2022 and later that year in the eastern Donbas region. “Now, we are all ready for battle,” he added.

In a sign that Ukraine would keep striking deep inside Russian-held territory, Moscow’s defense ministry said more than 100 drones were intercepted overnight Friday, half of them over the occupied Crimean Peninsula. It also said that six Ukrainian sea drones were destroyed in the Black Sea.



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