The Irish Times view on Russia’s Kharkiv offensive: Ukraine holds on for aid

The attack is successfully drawing Ukraine’s forces away from other front lines

Russia’s offensive in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine is a significant landmark in a war narrative that last year was mostly about Ukrainian advances and defensive success on the battlefield. That trajectory has been changing since spring.

Russia’s operations had previously focused on eastern Donetsk but the capture of villages and territory in Kharkhiv is successfully drawing Ukraine’s forces away from other front lines.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Ukrainian military said it had “repelled” offensive actions near the town of Vovchansk, now occupied by the Russians. And emergency services say that in the last week some 8,000 civilians have been moved to safety from towns and villages in the region.

Moscow is hoping to exploit its superior resources and developing technology, specifically new drones, ahead of the delivery of new military aid to Ukraine from the US after the deadlock in Congress was broken. Currently the Russians are firing 10 shells for every one the Ukrainians fire and shortages of air defence ammunition have allowed Russia freely to attack Ukrainian lines with glide bombs.


Ukrainian observers say Russia has insufficient reserves to take Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, but probably hopes to get as close as it can to make shelling possible. Vladimir Putin insists his forces are advancing in all areas of the battlefield.

Analysts suggest the Russians want to create a “buffer zone” on the border of Kharkiv region to protect the neighbouring Russian province of Belgorod, where close to 20 people have died in the last week due of Ukrainian air and drone strikes.

Delays in US supplies have compounded Ukrainian problems in passing new legislation to mobilise more young people into its depleted forces – the age of those subject to the draft is being reduced from 27 to 25. A palpably nervous Kyiv is hoping, despite an expected push by a strengthened Russia this summer, that its adversary’s strategic advantage and window of opportunity will pass as US supplies and new recruits feed into the battlefield.