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Zelenskiy delays his overseas trip amid the arrival of Russian troops in a Ukrainian border town

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has postponed all his planned foreign trips as the situation on Ukraine’s battlefield worsened on Wednesday. Kyiv reported ongoing fighting in the northeastern border town of Vovchansk in the Kharkiv region.

The potential capture of Vovchansk, located just 5 km (3 miles) from the border, would mark Russia’s most significant advance since initiating the incursion into the region on Friday, thereby establishing a new front in the invasion and compelling Kyiv to send in reinforcements.

This assault further destabilizes Ukraine’s forces, who already hold the 1,000-km (600-mile) front line in the east and south, ahead of what President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has warned could be a major Russian offensive. Moscow has been gradually gaining ground in the east for several months.

Oleksiy Kharkivskyi, Vovchansk’s patrol police chief, described the situation as “extremely difficult,” with the enemy occupying positions in the town’s streets. According to Dmytro Lazutkin, a spokesman for the defense ministry, “some” Russian infantry units have entered the town. Although Ukrainian troops managed to “partially” push them back, defensive operations continued on the northern and northwestern outskirts.

A late-night report from Ukraine’s General Staff stated that Ukrainian troops repelled four Russian attacks along the border, but fighting persisted near several villages. Troops continued efforts to stabilize the situation near Vovchansk.

The report mentioned heavy fire prompting troop repositioning near Kupiansk to the southeast, an area experiencing intense fighting in recent months. On Tuesday, the General Staff announced troops had withdrawn to new positions in the Vovchansk and Lukyantsi areas due to enemy fire and storming attempts.

Russia’s defense ministry claimed on Wednesday that its forces had captured two additional settlements in the region, totaling 12 since Friday. The latest captures were Hlyboke and Lukyantsi, both about 25 km from the outskirts of Kharkiv.

Police remained in Vovchansk, continuing evacuation efforts. Kharkivskyi reported that nearly 8,000 people have been evacuated from Vovchansk and surrounding areas since the assault began on Friday.

WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has postponed all upcoming foreign trips following discussions with senior military officials about the situation in the Kharkiv region and the supply of weaponry. Zelenskiy emphasized that current defense operations are the top priority.

Ukraine is battling to repel the assault in Kharkiv while also defending against Russia’s main offensive in the eastern Donbas region and potential border incursions. Ukraine’s military intelligence has alerted to the presence of Russian forces near the border with the Sumy region.

Delayed weapons deliveries, especially from the United States, have exacerbated Ukraine’s troop shortage. Lawmaker Serhii Rakhmanin anticipates the next three months to be critical, but hopes for improvement with fresh weapon supplies. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kyiv, pledging swift delivery of essential weaponry to protect soldiers and civilians.

Despite the escalating situation, Kyiv maintains that the Russian assault does not immediately threaten Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

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