KYIV, Ukraine—Ukrainian forces in the northeastern region of Kharkiv have regained territory at the Russian border, the regional governor said, while Russian forces continued to shell cities in Donbas and carried out a rare missile strike in western Ukraine.
Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Sinegubov said Monday that even as Ukraine wins back territory seized by Russia in recent months, the situation across the region remains extremely volatile. He warned civilians not to become complacent, adding that Russia is focusing its efforts on holding its positions and is preparing an offensive in the area of Izyum.
“I reiterate the need to be careful not to ignore alarms,” he said on his official Telegram messaging account. “The danger to the civilian population still exists.”
Russian forces carried out attacks in at least two districts in the region on Monday, Mr. Sinegubov said, adding that there were at least three active fires in the city of Kharkiv.
Russia has inflicted on the Kharkiv region some of the worst devastation Europe has seen since World War II. In the city of the same name, which is Ukraine’s second most populous, some 2,000 high-rises have been destroyed, according to the municipality. Nearly three months of shelling has turned much of it into a landscape of eviscerated buildings, shrapnel-littered streets and burned-out cars.
As attacks continued elsewhere in the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to bring “the feverish activity” by Russian forces to an end. Late Sunday, he said that at the weekend a missile struck the western region of Lviv, which has remained relatively safe through the worst of the fighting, and that the eastern cities of Huliaipole, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk were shelled.
Ukraine’s Air Force said late Sunday that it struck a bridge in central-eastern Ukraine to prevent Russian forces from crossing the Inhulets river. Last week, Ukrainian forces released footage of a similar operation in which they said they destroyed Russian military vehicles and a pontoon bridge in eastern Ukraine along the Siverskyi Donets river.
The British Ministry of Defense said the failed crossing of the Siverskyi Donets was further indication that Russian commanders were increasingly coming under pressure to advance. It added that Russia lost “significant armored maneuver elements” of at least one battalion tactical group, which typically comprise about 1,000 troops, in the attack.
Mr. Zelensky has been warning for days that Russia’s offensive in Ukraine is sparking food shortages around the world as Russia blocks Ukrainian grain from leaving port.
Similar sentiments were echoed by foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations, who said Saturday in a joint statement that “Russia’s war of aggression has generated one of the most severe food and energy crises in recent history, which now threatens those most vulnerable across the globe.”
On Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was also scheduled to meet with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki to discuss the impact of the Ukraine war and the rising threat of food insecurity. More than half of the six million people who have fled Ukraine since the conflict began have gone to neighboring Poland, according to the United Nations refugee agency.
On Saturday, Mr. Zelensky met in Kyiv with a visiting U.S. Senate delegation, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), as he continued to rally for more military and economic assistance from allies around the world. In the Senate, a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine is stalled over objections from Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Mr. McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) had pushed for the bill’s passage together Thursday to request unanimous agreement from all 100 senators to allow a vote on the bill immediately.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba in Berlin, where he conveyed details regarding the latest tranche of U.S. security assistance to bolster Ukraine’s defenses, as well as growing concerns over food security and other issues related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the State Department said.
The war has prompted two new countries on Russia’s eastern flank to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The leaders of Finland and Sweden have confirmed they intend to join the military alliance, signifying a historic Nordic policy shift and departure from military nonalignment as they seek to bolster their defenses in the face of Russia’s invasion.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Monday called plans from the two Nordic nations to join the alliance a “serious mistake with far-reaching consequences” that would increase military tensions in the region.
Mr. Ryabkov’s remarks echo comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who on Saturday told his Finnish counterpart in a phone call that reversing decades of nonaligned defense policy would be a mistake that risked damaging Russian-Finnish relations.