Russia 'stopped' in Kharkiv, Ukraine counterattacking: Kiev

Foreign journalists report from an observation point while smoke rises after a Russian attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Ukraine said Friday it had halted a Russian ground offensive in Kharkiv and was now attacking Moscow's forces that mounted a surprise assault on the border region this month.

"The Ukrainian Defense Forces have stopped Russian troops in the Kharkiv sector and are conducting counter-offensive actions," the military said in a statement on social media.

Russian forces have become "bogged down" trying to capture the northeastern border town of Vovchansk, but were putting intense pressure on Ukraine's army in the east, Kiev's top general said earlier Friday.

Kiev has been battling a fresh land assault on its northeastern Kharkiv region since May 10, when thousands of Russian troops stormed the border, making their biggest territorial advances in 18 months.

Despite initial success, "the enemy has got completely bogged down in street battles for Vovchansk and suffered very high losses in assault units," Ukrainian commander-in-chief Oleksandr Syrsky said on social media.

Vovchansk sits less than five kilometers (three miles) from Russia and has become an epicentre of fighting as Moscow seeks to create a "buffer zone" along the border to prevent future Ukrainian attacks.

In an attempt to seize the town, Russia "is currently moving reserves from different sectors to support active assault operations, but to no avail," Syrsky added.

He warned, however, that the situation was turbulent on the eastern front, where Russia claims its forces have made a string of gains in the past two weeks.

Fighting near the eastern towns of Chasiv Yar,...

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