Strikes kill 11 in Ukraine region under Russian offensive

The strike hit a recreation centre in the Kharkiv region (SERGEY BOBOK)
The strike hit a recreation centre in the Kharkiv region (SERGEY BOBOK)

Russian attacks on Ukraine's Kharkiv region on Sunday killed at least 11 people, said authorities in the border area facing a new offensive by Moscow's forces.

Russian troops since May 10 have carried out a ground assault in the northeastern region, where they have achieved their largest territorial gains in the last 18 months.

Kyiv said it has stopped their progress -- a claim contradicted by Moscow.

Six people -- including a pregnant woman -- were killed on the outskirts of Kharkiv city by a missile attack launched from Russia's territory of Belgorod, Ukrainian authorities said.

Twenty-seven were wounded in the strike on a recreation centre, with one employee missing, the prosecutors office said.

"Among the wounded is a police officer and an ambulance paramedic who came to help people after the first hit," the Kharkiv prosecutor's office said.

It accused Russian forces of "once again using the tactic of 'repeated strike'... aimed at killing civilians, law enforcement officers, medics, and rescuers."

Russia has often been accused of using "double-tap" attacks, in which a second strike follows shortly after the first, increasing the chances of casualties among those responding to the initial incident.

Moscow insists it only targets military infrastructure.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of using its weapons to "terrorise our cities and communities, to kill ordinary people".

Zelensky said Ukraine needed "two Patriots for Kharkiv, (which) will fundamentally change the situation", referring to the sophisticated US-made air-defence system.

- Offensive in the Kharkiv region -

Shortly afterwards, authorities reported another attack in the Kharkiv region.

"Five civilians were killed and nine injured as a result of shelling of Novoosynove and Kivsharivka villages with multiple rocket launchers," governor Oleg Synegubov said.

After launching increased aerial strikes, Russia carried out a ground assault in the border region on May 10.

It had mostly been under control from Ukrainian forces, which pushed back Moscow's troops that had occupied the region between spring and autumn 2022.

But Russian troops surged through defence lines on Friday, opening a new front with artillery and aircraft attacks, forcing thousands to flee.

Ukrainian police and volunteers evacuated just over 1,000 people in the region, Synegubov said in the morning.

In his evening address, Zelensky said his forces had strengthened their defences in the area.

"As a result of these days –- of the whole week –- we have secured stronger positions in the Kharkiv region," he said.

Russian troops advanced between five and 10 kilometres (three to six miles) along the northeastern border before being halted by Ukrainian forces, Zelensky said in an interview with AFP on Friday.

Ukraine's General Staff said Russian attacks in the Kharkiv area "slowed down a bit" on Sunday but that forces "continue their attempts to break through our defences near Vovchansk, Starytsya and Lyptsi".

Zelensky, in his evening address, said "brutal Russian shelling and missile attacks, attacks with guided aerial bombs continue every day. Sumy region, Kharkiv region. Donetsk region, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv region, cities of Dnipropetrovsk region."

Russia's defence ministry, which had claimed to have seized Starytsya, said its units "continued to advance into the depth of the enemy's defences".

- Russian refinery attacked -

Moscow said it shot down 61 Ukrainian drones overnight, most of them above the southern region of Krasnodar.

Six drones fell on the territory of the Slovyansk-on-Kuban refinery in the region and forced it to halt operations, its management and authorities said.

"There have been strikes. The plant is currently at a standstill. We are assessing the damage," Eduard Trutnev, the refinery head of security, told Interfax news agency.

The Slovyansk-on-Kuban refinery, in the Krasnodar region east of the Sea of Azov, is one of the biggest in southern Russia.

A Ukrainian defence source said its forces targeted the refinery and the Kushchyovsky military airfield.

"This is the second attack by (Ukraine's security service) drones on the Kushchyovsky military airfield and the Slovyansk refinery in the last three weeks," the source said.

"Several aircraft were hit at the airfield" and the refinery complex was hit, the source added.

Ukrainian air attacks targeted the border region of Belgorod, injuring 11 including three children according to regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov.

They also targeted the Russian-occupied region of Kherson, where one person was killed when a drone hit a minibus of people going strawberry picking.