12 May 2024

‘Russia’s number one goal is to get troops closer to Kharkiv,’ says Ukrainian security analyst

News Correspondent

As Russian forces advance on a city just beyond the Ukrainian border, a security analyst believes this is now the most prominent objective at this stage of the war.

Fighting is ramping up in the Kharkiv region, where Russia has launched a major assault and Moscow said it had seized nine villages in the past two days.

Maria Avdeeva is a Ukrainian security analyst from Kharkiv. We began by asking about the situation there:

“It’s a difficult situation there. Russian troops are trying to get closer to the city. And I see at the current stage, this is the number one goal. This city, it’s just on the border, and it was already liberated. So people who live in Luhansk, they already went through the occupation. They know how it is to be under occupation. And this is why they are rushing out. Because they don’t want to experience it for the second time if this happens.”

Ayshah Tull: “What do you think is the wider strategy then? You’ve said that Russian troops are on the border gathering somewhere else. Do you think that it’s to create a so-called buffer zone or to eventually take Kharkiv?”

Maria Avdeeva: “I think they have several goals in mind. One is actually what you mentioned – to create this buffer zone or grey zone along the border. This will allow for Russian troops to come closer to the city and have Kharkiv in artillery range. The other aim is to stretch the front line, to hold the new front that just has opened. Ukraine needs to redeploy more troops here from Donbas. And this means that they will be overstretched. And, as you know, the Ukrainian army does not have sufficient manpower, so this will be difficult. I don’t believe that Russia will try to get the city itself. But even if they succeed in getting closer to the city, this will create a dangerous situation for Kharkiv – the second largest city in Ukraine.”

Ayshah Tull: “You would have heard that Russia is blaming Ukraine for a strike on an apartment block in Belgorod. What do you make of that? They said it’s a terrorist attack on residential areas.”

Maria Avdeeva: “I have studied the reports of the different analysts and all of them come to the conclusion that the explosion, whichever caused it, happened on the other side of the building, that is heading north, which is not into the Ukrainian side. So there is a possibility that Russia launched this gliding bomb. Which it launches constantly towards Luhansk, Kharkiv and other areas. And this bomb just was misguided and hit the building.”

Ayshah Tull: “Finally, we’re 27 months into the war now, I just wonder how you are feeling. And for the people of Kharkiv what is the feeling with this renewed assault from Russia right now?

Maria Avdeeva: “People generally are exhausted because of the war, naturally. But this new offensive from Russia gives them, it could sound weird, but this gives them the feeling of another strength because they understand they need to be strong and resilient. So people understand that this is a moment when we have to be as united and as strong as possible to stop the Russian advance, because Russia wants to crush everything and destroy if they succeed in moving further.”