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Ukraine accuses Russian troops of war crimes near Kharkiv

Ukraine has charged Russian forces with abducting civilians and the murder of a non-combatant in Vovchansk, a city in the Kharkiv region of north-east Ukraine, which has recently re-emerged as a critical battlefront in the ongoing conflict.

Published May 16,2024
Ukraine has accused Russian troops of kidnapping civilians and killing a non-combatant in the city of Vovchansk in the Kharkiv region in the north-east, which has again become a key battlefront in the war.

"The first shootings of civilians by the Russian military have become known," Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko wrote on his Telegram channel on Thursday.

According to Klymenko, a resident who tried to flee and defied Russian orders was killed. Other residents of the embattled city were prevented from leaving, "kidnapped and driven into cellars," he wrote.

The allegations cannot be independently verified and there was no immediate response from the Russians.

Almost a week ago, Russia launched a new major offensive in north-eastern Ukraine. The Russian military managed to occupy several border villages in the Kharkiv region.

Ukraine began evacuating civilians from the region. However, due to the heavy fighting around the small town of Vovchansk, around 5 kilometres from the border with Russia, not everyone could be brought to safety.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the situation in Kharkiv as stable during a visit to the region.

"As of today, the situation in the Kharkiv region is generally controllable, our fighters are inflicting noticeable losses on the occupiers," he wrote on his Telegram channel on Thursday.

Zelensky said reinforcements are to be deployed to the Kharkiv region.

The Ukrainian general staff said in its latest situation report that there had been successes in slowing down the major Russian offensive that had been underway for almost a week.

"The enemy's plans to penetrate as deep as possible into the urban neighbourhood of Vovchansk and entrench themselves there were thwarted," the report said. Fighting was taking place in the northern part of the city. The general staff also declared that the situation was under control.

Ukrainian forces have attacked a military airfield on the Russian-occupied Black Sea peninsula of Crimea for the second night in a row, an independent media outlet reported on Thursday.

A fuel facility at the Belbek military airfield was hit in the missile attack and a fire broke out, online news outlet Astra reported.

The Russian Defence Ministry for its part said five US-made ATACMS missiles were shot down above Crimea, which Moscow annexed in violation of international law in 2014.

In addition, Russian troops shot down four Ukrainian drones and intercepted another two by jamming their signal, according to the ministry.

Russian military bloggers however confirmed that a fire had broken out.

The Belbek airfield also came under attack the previous night. While the Russian Defence Ministry also claimed to have shot down all enemy missiles in that case, videos circulating online showed heavy fires. The impacts were later also confirmed by the military blog Rybar, which is considered close to Defence Ministry.

Belbek, near the harbour city of Sevastopol, is considered an important base for the Russian air force.

Ukraine has repeatedly announced its intention to liberate Crimea from Russian occupation.