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Russia’s attack on the recreation area near Kharkiv, Blinken’s visit to Ukraine, and emergency blackouts: Ukraine’s weekly news digest

While Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine is entering its third year, the situation is still intense, with regular updates on attacks on civilians, offensive and defensive operations, and responses from the international community.

Here is what you may have missed on the news from Ukraine from May 13 to May 20.

Ukraine needs more air defense systems to protect Kharkiv and the region

Russia keeps terrorizing Kharkiv and the region with constant missile and UAV attacks. Thus, on May 19, the enemy attacked a recreation area in the village of Cherkaska Lozova with ballistic missiles Iskander-M. Once again, Russian terrorists used the tactic of “double-tap strike”, when the first air strike is followed by a second attack, targeting rescuers trying to help the wounded.

At least seven people were killed, including a pregnant woman, and 28 more were injured, including an 8-year-old child and two emergency responders, reported the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.

Earlier this week, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy emphasized that Ukraine needs two Patriot missile defense systems from its allies to protect Kharkiv and the region from Russian shellings. According to Zelenskyy, air defense systems are currently in short supply in Ukraine, especially in the Kharkiv region, where the locals suffer from daily Russian air attacks.

Moreover, Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated in an interview with AFP that Ukraine currently has only 25% of the anti-aircraft defense equipment needed to fully protect its territories from Russian missile and UAV strikes.

Battles for Vovchansk and the ongoing evacuation of civilians

In the Kharkiv region, Russia is making further attempts to seize Ukrainian territories after starting the new wave of offensive actions on May 10. Over the past week, Ukrainian defenders repelled another enemy attack on the Vovchansk axis and partially pushed the enemy forces out of the settlement. At the same time, the Ukrainian military is conducting defensive operations in the northern and northwestern surroundings of Vovchansk.

A woman with two her dogs during the evacuation from one of the settlements in the Kharkiv region.
Photo: State Emergency Service of Ukraine in the Kharkiv region

In addition, the evacuation of Ukrainian civilians who live near an active battle zone is ongoing. As of May 18, more than 9,900 residents had already been evacuated from settlements in the Kharkiv region near the border with Russia. According to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, about 2,500 people were evacuated from the Vovchansk community, which has become a battle hotspot in recent weeks.

Antony Blinken’s visit to Ukraine

On Tuesday, May 14, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Kyiv on a working visit. He met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Minister for Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba. Further military aid to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, including additional air defense systems, was on the agenda.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken walks together with the Ukrainian Minister for Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba
near the “The Wall of Remembrance” in Kyiv dedicated to fallen Ukrainian soldiers. May 16, 2024.
Photo: US Secretary Antony Blinken / X (Twitter)

The US Secretary of State also announced additional military support for Ukraine during a joint press conference with Kuleba. “We will provide an additional $2 billion financial aid for Ukraine. And we combined it into a first-of-its-kind defense enterprise fund,” said Blinken.

He also added that this money will help Ukraine purchase the necessary equipment and invest in its military-industrial complex.

Emergency blackouts return in Ukraine

Following the consequences of Russian attacks on the energy system in March-May 2024, restrictions were imposed on industrial consumers. In addition, emergency blackouts were introduced for households in all regions of Ukraine since May 14. The reason for this was a significant shortage of capacity in the Ukrainian power grid.

As informed by National Power Company Ukrenergo, on May 20, hourly power outage schedules will be used for industrial and household consumers in the evening hours in all Ukrainian regions to reduce the load on the power grid. Ukraine has also been receiving emergency assistance from Romania, Poland, and Slovakia.

Blackout in Kharkiv, April 4, 2024.
Photo: Yakiv Liashenko

As reported earlier, Russian forces targeted all major Ukrainian thermal and hydroelectric power plants during five massive air attacks from March 22 to May 8, causing significant damage to critical infrastructure facilities.

New sanctions against Russia from New Zealand

On May 16, the New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced new sanctions imposed on 28 individuals and 14 entities providing military and strategic support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In particular, New Zealand’s sanctions are targeting individuals and entities who are involved with the transfer of weaponry (including Iranian drones) from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea into Russia for use against Ukraine, as well as Iranian actors involved in the provision of military assistance to Russia. Furthermore, new sanctions target those facilitating the forced relocation of Ukrainian children to Russia and temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories.

“In continuing to facilitate the deportation of Ukrainian children, Russia is seeking to advance its objectives in invading Ukraine, including efforts to undermine Ukraine’s identity as a sovereign country,” stated Mr Peters.

Latest Russian military losses: one more vessel and aircraft

At night on May 19, the Ukrainian Navy successfully destroyed the “Kovrovets” sea minesweeper of the Russian Black Sea fleet. This military vessel has been part of the Russian Black Sea fleet since 1974 and was designed for trawling ships, reconnaissance and control trawling, laying fairways in minefields, as well as participating in mine laying in the far zone from its bases.

One day earlier, on May 18, Ukrainian soldiers from the 110th Separate Mechanized Brigade named after General-Corporal Marko Bezruchko shot down a Russian Su-25 fighter-bomber over the Donetsk region.

Read more: What are the Russian death toll and other losses in Ukraine?

Stats of the week

  • The Ministry of Defence of Ukraine accepted another 18 samples of Ukrainian-made weapons and military equipment for operation. In total, in the first three months of 2024, more than 80 samples of Ukrainian-made weapons and military equipment were accepted for operation in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Source: Ministry of Defence of Ukraine. May 13, 2024.

  • Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, 292 facts of sexual violence against Ukrainian citizens committed by Russian soldiers have been recorded. 

Source: Dmytro Lubinets, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights. May 15, 2024.

  • Ukrainian seaports’ cargo turnover in April amounted to 10 million tons. Grain cargo accounted for the most significant part, with 6.3 million tons.

Source: Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority. May 15, 2024.