Ukraine’s Zelenskyy says his army is locked in ‘fierce’ battles amid Russian assault

By ILLIA NOVIKOV Associated Press |

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian troops are locked in intense battles with the advancing Russian army in two border areas, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, while the death toll from a Russian apartment building collapse blamed on Ukrainian shelling rose to 15.

Zelenskyy said “fierce battles” are taking place near the border in eastern and northeastern Ukraine as outgunned and outnumbered Ukrainian soldiers try to push back a significant Russian ground offensive.

“Defensive battles are ongoing, fierce battles, on a large part of our border area,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Sunday.

The Kremlin’s forces are aiming to exploit Ukrainian weaknesses before a big batch of new military aid for Kyiv from the U.S. and European partners arrives on the battlefield in the coming weeks and months, analysts say. That makes this period a window of opportunity for Moscow and one of the most dangerous for Kyiv in the two-year war, they say.

The new Russian push in the northeastern Kharkiv region, along with the ongoing drive into the eastern Donetsk region, come after months when the about 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line barely budged. In the meantime, both sides have used long-range strikes in what largely became a war of attrition.

The Kharkiv incursion may be an attempt to create a “buffer zone” to protect Belgorod, an adjacent Russian border region battered by Ukrainian attacks.

Russian emergency services on Monday finished clearing the rubble in the region’s capital city of Belgorod, where a section of a residential building collapsed following what authorities said was Ukrainian shelling.

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