The Russians simply walked in, Ukrainian troops in Kharkiv tell

Denys Yaroslavskyi is angry.

As commander of a special Ukrainian intelligence unit, he fought in Ukraine’s surprise attack on Kharkiv in the fall of 2022, which pushed the initial Russian attack back to the border.

But now Denys and her husband have the chance to do the same again.

In recent days, Russian troops have achieved small but significant victories right on the border in the Kharkiv region.

Their advances are only a few miles deep, but they have gobbled up about 100 kilometers (62 miles) of Ukrainian territory. It took Russia months to achieve the same in the more heavily defended part of eastern Ukraine.

Russia claims that its forces have now entered the border town of Vovchansk, which Ukraine denies.

The city has been the target of strong bombings in recent days and several thousand inhabitants have been evacuated.

Denys wants to know what happened to the Ukrainian defense.

“There was no first line of defense. We saw it. The Russians just entered. They just went in, without mined fields,” he says.

He shows me a drone feed video taken a few days ago of a small Russian force marching across the border unopposed.

He says that the authorities claimed that the defenses were built at enormous cost, but in his opinion, the defenses simply did not exist. “It was either negligence or corruption. It was not a failure. It was fraud.”

Everyone knew this attack was likely to happen. Both Ukrainian and Western intelligence officials knew that Russia was massing troops across the border – an estimated 30,000 troops.

President Vladimir Putin also publicly announced his intention to create a buffer zone in Kharkiv Oblast to protect Russian territory from Ukrainian artillery attacks.

But it seems that Ukraine was poorly prepared, despite official bans.

Speaking from Kharkiv Park, Denys says that in an hour he and his men will be back at the front line near the city of Vovchansk, just 5 km (3 miles) from the Russian border.

Russian troops are said to have already reached the edge of the city. Denys says he fears it may soon return to Russian hands.

We were already in the city before and joined the local police Oleks, who gathered residents who wanted to flee to a safe place. He drove fast to avoid the Russian drones flying overhead and constant artillery fire.

The population of the city was around 20,000 before the war. Most of them left before the start of the war and the population fell to 3,000, but hundreds more left in the last days. Oleksii says, “Now it’s easier to leave before they die or get hurt.”

Russia is using an all-too-familiar tactic to advance in Kharkiv – razing Ukrainian villages and towns to rubble. According to Oleksii, Russia fired about 50-60 shells per hour at the city. And then there are the glissier bombs fired by Russian planes tens of kilometers from the front line, which are beyond the reach of Ukraine’s limited air defenses..

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