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10 Aug, 2023 12:01

Ukraine orders evacuation of key city near Kharkov

The move comes following reports that Russian troops are advancing in the area
Ukraine orders evacuation of key city near Kharkov

Ukrainian authorities have announced a mandatory evacuation in part of Kharkov Region bordering Russia’s Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. The order comes after the Defense Ministry in Moscow said its troops had made headway in the area.

In a written order on Thursday, Andrey Kanashevich, acting head of the Kupiansk military administration, published a list of 37 settlements near the combat zone that were to be evacuated by local residents. He cited “constant [Russian] artillery attacks and the security situation” as the reason for the decision, adding that the order also applies to the city of Kupiansk itself.

The directive came as the Russian Defense Ministry said that its assault units had “improved their forward positions while conducting offensive actions.” Russian Telegram channel Voyennaya Chronica reported that Russian troops were only seven kilometers away from Kupiansk, with the city itself now within artillery range.

Kupiansk was captured by Russian troops shortly after the start of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022, but Kiev retook it last autumn when Moscow announced the regrouping of its forces in the area in a bid to concentrate on the liberation of Donbass.

The city, which is located around 116km from Kharkov and divided in two by the Oskol River, is home to a major railway station crucial for supplying troops deployed south of the city. Russian military experts have also said that should Moscow take control of Kupiansk, it would help thwart any Ukrainian attacks on the Lugansk People’s Republic.

The evacuation order and reports of Russian advances come as a much-hyped Ukrainian counteroffensive drags on. Kiev’s attacks have so far failed to gain any ground, according to Moscow. Last week, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu estimated Ukrainian losses since the start of the push in early June at more than 43,000 troops and nearly 5,000 pieces of military equipment.