84th day of hostilities: Ukraine claims to regain control of more territory in Kharkov

Ukraine says it is continuing its counteroffensive and has recaptured more settlements in northeastern Kharkov province.

On May 18, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced that it had regained control of the settlement of Dementiivka in Kharkov province, some 35 km north of the city of Kharkov.

Ukraine said fighting continued in other areas of Kharkov province and that Russian forces were advancing around the village of Ternova near the border between the two countries.

In the Eastern Province LuganskUkraine announced that it had destroyed bridges to prevent Russian forces from advancing on the region’s cities of Severodonetsk and Lysyhansk.

Russian shock troops maintain heavy pressure on Severodonetsk and Lysyhansk with artillery and air strikes, while expanding the attack range on the southern villages.

Serhiy Hayday, head of the Ukrainian government’s military administration in Lugansk province, accused Russia of “destroying everything on its advance path to turn Lugansk province into a plain without people, without houses, without factories”.

Russia is said to have controlled 90% of the Lugansk province and is trying to achieve its goal of taking over the region.

Ukrainian soldiers on the streets of Kharkov on May 17.  Photo: AFP.

Ukrainian soldiers on the streets of Kharkov on May 17. Picture: AFP.

In DonetskAccording to Ukrainian military, Russian forces are launching new attacks on Sloviansk. Russia is trying to encircle Ukrainian units around the town of Lyman and take control of the nearby settlement of Drobysheve. If the Russian plan works, the Ukrainian defenses at Lyman could be attacked from three directions.

Southern port city Mariupol remains the center of attention with the Azovstal Steel Plant, where members of the Azov Battalion, a nationalist force of the Ukrainian National Guard, are holed up.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on May 18 that 959 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered at the Azovstal Steel Plant, of whom 80 were wounded and 51 hospitalized. However, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, said the commander-in-chief of the entrenched forces has not yet surrendered.

Evacuation of Ukrainian soldiers from the Azovstal factory

A convoy transports Ukrainian soldiers from the besieged Azovstal Steelworks in Mariupol on May 17. Video: AP.

The Russian Defense Ministry earlier announced that it had reached an agreement with Ukraine to withdraw Ukrainian soldiers from the Azovstal factory. However, neither Moscow nor Kyiv made any specific statements about the agreement. Ukraine then announced the end of its combat operations in the southern city of Mariupol.

The fate of the Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered is unknown. Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister said they would be exchanged with Russian prisoners of war. Meanwhile, Russian investigators plan to question the soldiers and possibly prosecute them for “crimes committed by the Ukrainian regime against civilians in south-eastern Ukraine.”

Russia announced on May 18 expulsion 85 diplomatic staff including 34 from France, 27 from Spain and 24 from Italy in response to previous similar moves from those countries.

The three countries are among European countries that have expelled more than 300 Russian diplomats since Moscow launched a military operation in Ukraine on February 24. Many Russian diplomats have been accused by the West of being spies, which Moscow denies.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called Russia’s decision a “hostile act” and said diplomatic channels should not be cut. France also criticized Russia’s move as an inappropriate response, while Spain criticized Moscow for making a decision that was not based on principles and lacked good reasoning.

prime minister Finland Sanna Marin on May 18 urged NATO member countries to work “as soon as possible” to receive the country’s application for membership as soon as possible.

“I think that is an important issue when it comes to safety. The quicker the approval process, the better the security for Finland and Sweden at this stage,” said Prime Minister Marin.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has so far registered that more than 6.3 million Ukrainians left the country after February 24, when Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported a total of 7,964 civilian casualties in Ukraine, of whom 3,778 died and 4,186 were injured. The agency warned the actual number could be much higher.

An unnamed NATO military official said CNN that the Alliance predicts that neither Russia nor Ukraine will make any meaningful progress in the coming weeks. “I think we’re going to be stuck for a while,” the NATO official said.

Overview of the battlefield in eastern Ukraine after more than 80 days of fighting.  Click here for details.

Overview of the battlefield in eastern Ukraine after more than 80 days of fighting. Click here for details.

Ngoc app (Corresponding AFP/Reuters/CNN)