Russian attacks force hundreds to flee border area in Ukraine's Kharkiv region

Fierce fighting raged into a second day on the fringes of Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv region on Saturday as Moscow said it had captured five villages, while Kyiv said it was repulsing the attacks and battling for control of the settlements.

Russia launched the armoured incursion early on Friday, an attack on a new front that may presage a broader push into Kharkiv region or aim to draw away overstretched Ukrainian forces from where Moscow's offensive is focused in the east.

Kyiv has been on the back foot on the battlefield for months as Russian troops have slowly advanced mainly in the Donetsk region to the south, taking advantage of Ukraine's shortages of troop manpower and artillery shells.

The Russian defence ministry told a briefing that Moscow's forces had taken the Kharkiv region villages of Pletenivka, Ohirtseve, Borysivka, Pylna and Strilecha across the border from Russia's Belgorod region.

But Kharkiv's governor Oleh Syniehubov said that active fighting continued on the territory of all five of the frontier villages that are located within three to five kms (1.9-3.1 miles) of the border.

"We clearly understand what forces the enemy is using in the north of our territory. Certainly, the escalation can grow, the pressure can increase, it can strengthen its military units, its military presence," he said.

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