Russia thwarted over Kharkiv after cross-border Himars strikes

Ukrainian missile attacks destroy at leasst two Russian rocket launchers and several vehicles
Ukrainian missile attacks destroy at leasst two Russian rocket launchers and several vehicles - X

Himars strikes inside Russia are having an immediate effect in halting Vladimir Putin’s new invasion into northern Ukraine, officials have told The Telegraph.

The high-powered precision missiles that the US finally gave permission to be fired across the border last week have destroyed key missile launch sites and forced Russians to redeploy.

Russian troops have become “bogged down” in newly occupied villages north of Kharkiv where they are trying to break through towards Ukraine’s second city, according to reports.

The governor of the city told The Telegraph that Ukrainian troops are now preparing to counter-attack Russian positions as the front lines have “stabilised”.

Soldiers on the front lines meanwhile said that Ukrainian forces in the region were no longer “only defending”.

The apparent stabilisation of the new northern front will come as a huge relief for Ukraine and the West, which have both been predicting a large-scale Russian summer offensive.

However, analysts still caution that the new northern axis may be little more than a distraction for an offensive in the east, where progress for Russia has also been slow in recent weeks.

In and around Kharkiv air raid sirens and accompanying mobile phone emergency alerts still regularly sound but airstrikes have slowed following the Himars strikes.

Oleh Syniehubov, the governor of the Kharkiv region, told The Telegraph: “You can feel the difference already. When we are sitting here, it feels quite safe right now, because we can see the first results.”

President Joe Biden last week bowed to pressure from allies and requests from Kyiv to relax restrictions on the use of US-supplied weapons to defend Kharkiv.

The day after the about-turn, Ukraine reportedly used Himars launchers to hit targets including a Russian battery of S-300/400 missiles in the city of Belgorod.

Ukraine soldiers in Kharkiv fire artillery at Russian troops
Ukraine soldiers in Kharkiv fire artillery at Russian troops - ANADOLU

At 5am on May 10, Russian infantry battalions pushed forward under the cover of heavy artillery fire and glide bomb attacks, seizing several villages as they caught Ukrainian troops off-guard.

After two weeks of grinding advances, Ukraine’s generals announced they had halted Russia’s progress, with the Kremlin’s forces largely bogged down around the city of Vovchansk.

But Ukrainian troops and cities were still coming under constant attack by missiles launched with impunity from the safety of Russian territory.

That now appears to be changing, with the strikes on Russia’s S-300 missile launchers deemed crucial.

“It’s hard for Russians to use the S-300 missiles right now. That was the main weapon for them to attack the Kharkiv direction and now it’s harder for them to use it,” Mr Syniehubov told The Telegraph.

“This will let the Ukraine army be more effective and the allies’ weapons will also help us to ruin their logistics.”

Moscow’s renewed assault on the Kharkiv region of north-east Ukraine was accompanied by a sharp increase in air and missile attacks.

Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million about 19 miles from the border, was hit 76 times in May, with glide bombs, missiles and drones, the mayor, Ihor Terekhov, reported earlier this week. That was three times as many strikes as in April.

Mr Terekhov said there were now early indications the situation appeared to be improving.

“We are already feeling that the situation is different,” he said.

“Now it is too early to speak about details, but what we are seeing is their systems, the S-300 and S-400, were completely destroyed.

“These systems were used to target residential buildings and official buildings and they were using that a lot.”

Throughout the conflict, Russian forces have used surface-to-air missiles such as the S-300 and its more advanced cousin against Ukrainian cities.

While the strikes with Western weapons had improved the situation, city officials said Kharkiv still needed extra air defence systems for protection.

Ukraine is also urging its allies to further loosen the restrictions governing the use of their weapons against Russia.

Washington has agreed that Kyiv can use US weapons for “counter-fire purposes in Kharkiv so Ukraine can hit back at Russian forces hitting them or preparing to hit them”.

Washington’s new stance is thought to allow for US-supplied weapons to be used to strike Russian forces that are attacking or preparing to attack.

But Ukraine is still not allowed to use American-provided ATACMS or long-range missiles and other munitions to strike inside Russia, US officials have said.

Meanwhile, the eastern front lines have moved very little in recent weeks after a string of Russian victories in the spring put key tactical cities like Chasiv Yar under threat.

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