Russia launched a new offensive a week ago in a bid to exploit Ukraine’s issues before new support arrives, raising fears that the country’s second-largest city may even fall into Moscow’s hands. 

But President Vladimir Putin said Friday his goal was to carve out a buffer zone around Russia’s own under-fire border regions, rather than to seize Kharkiv itself.

“There are no such plans today,” he said after wrapping up his visit to China.

Zelenskyy has downplayed Russia’s gains, but he warned that Moscow was still the one advancing. 

“I won’t say it’s a great success (for Russia) but we have to be sober and understand that they are going deeper into our territory,” he told AFP, “not vice versa.”

Kyiv is also desperate to replenish its own military, but analysts say that Ukraine is losing troops faster than it can replenish them and the new efforts might be too late, even if Ukraine got the weapons it has been asking for.

On Friday, Zelenskyy signed into law a new bill that will allow some convicts to be drafted into the military in exchange for being released on parole. And a new mobilization law comes into effect Saturday.

“No matter how many thousands of rounds of artillery you got, you can’t have a soldier in two places at once,” said Frank Ledwidge, a former British military intelligence officer and senior lecturer in war studies at England’s University of Portsmouth.

“An army is a really complex system of systems which interlock and takes years to build huge resources,” he said. “You don’t just conjure them up.”

Zelenskyy acknowledged issues with manpower and “morale,” but said for now his troops had stabilized the front lines and that Russian forces had advanced no more than 6 miles into the Ukrainian territory. Fierce fighting is ongoing in the streets of Vovchansk, a front-line town from where thousands of residents have fled in recent days.

Ukraine rushed reserves to the area, a move that helped prevent further losses in the northeast. But it could spread its forces even thinner on the battlefield and expose other parts of the frontlines as the Russians push in the eastern Donetsk region and reportedly mass forces near Sumy, west of Vovchansk.

The Russian military said it had dealt Ukraine another setback in the area Saturday by taking control of Starytsa, a village to the west of Vovchansk.

The Ukrainians did not comment on the claim, though Kyiv’s general staff said in an update that “the enemy does not stop trying to break through the defense of the Ukrainian troops” in the area. “Our defenders are trying to push back the enemy,” it said.

NBC News could not independently verify the battlefield reports from either side.


We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.


Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?