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Zelensky visits Kharkiv amid 'extremely difficult' attacks, says situation under control

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Kharkiv Thursday for military briefings and visits with wounded soldiers as Russia attacks the region with 30,000 troops. He said while the situation is extremely difficult, Russian losses are heavy and the Kharkiv region is generally under control. File Photo by Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA-EFE
1 of 3 | Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Kharkiv Thursday for military briefings and visits with wounded soldiers as Russia attacks the region with 30,000 troops. He said while the situation is extremely difficult, Russian losses are heavy and the Kharkiv region is generally under control. File Photo by Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA-EFE

May 16 (UPI) -- President Volodymyr Zelensky Thursday visited Kharkiv as intense Russian attacks raged on Ukraine's second-largest city, thanking defenders wounded trying to repel Russian invaders.

He held a meeting of Ukraine's Supreme Commander-in-Chief's Staff in Kharkiv, according to Ukraine's state news agency Ukrinform. Zelensky said while conditions are "extremely difficult," the situation in the Kharkiv region is generally under control and Ukrainian soldiers are inflicting heavy losses on Russian troops.

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Zelensky said he also met with wounded soldiers and the commander of an assault brigade.

"I spoke with them and presented them with state awards," Zelensky posted on X. "I am grateful to our warriors for their service and bravery. Ukraine is proud of them all. I also want to thank our medical workers, who are currently facing a difficult challenge as we defend our Kharkiv region."

Zelensky met with fighters from the 92nd Assault Brigade "Ivan Sirko" and was briefed by the brigade commander on the situation as Russians pressed their Kharkiv offensive.

Russia targeted the Kharkiv Oblast on May 10 with an estimated 30,000 troops, focusing the attack on Lyptsi and Vovchansk, settlements just south of the border about 45 miles from Kharkiv.

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According to the Kyiv Independent Zelensky got detailed reports from Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi, who leads the Khortytsia group of Ukrainian military forces as well as a briefing from Yurii Sodol, the commander of the operational-tactical group in Kharkiv.

Zelensky said the situation was analyzed in detail and plans were made to counter Russia's offensive.

"A plan of further actions has been determined -- both for the Kharkiv regional authorities and for all structures responsible for security in the region," he said.

Wednesday Ukraine said its forces were forced to withdraw from several towns and villages close to the northeastern border with Russia in Kharkiv province after heavy Russian fire. Ukrainian Armed Forces said despite the withdrawal said they were "not allowing the Russian occupiers to gain a foothold."

Ukraine has sent reinforcements into the Kharkiv region and more are expected to be deployed there.

Zelensky's Kharkiv visit came just after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Binken made a surprise visit to Ukraine to assure Ukraine that military aid, weapons and ammunition are being rushed to the frontlines.

Blinken said some supplies from the recently passed $62 billion aid package for Ukraine had already arrived and much more is coming, including an addition $2 billion in defense funding.

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