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A police car drives past a destroyed building in Vovchansk, Kharkiv Oblast, on May 11, 2024. (Francis Farrell/The Kyiv Independent)
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Ukrainian forces control about 60% of the town of Vovchansk in Kharkiv Oblast amid continuous Russian assaults, Deputy Governor Roman Semenukha said on national television on May 20.

"The enemy keeps trying, especially inside Vovchansk, to push the Ukrainian Armed Forces out of the town," Semehukha said.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry confirmed on May 15 that Russian units had entered the northern parts of the settlement. The Ukrainian military said at the time it had prevented Russia from establishing a foothold deeper in Vovchansk.

The town is described by Ukrainian officials as almost destroyed, while Russia keeps attacking Vovchansk and other neighboring settlements, inflicting civilian casualties. Russian forces had also captured dozens of civilians in the town and are using them as human shields, the police said.

"We are under continuous shelling. The enemy continues attacking, focusing mainly on the areas of Lyptsi and Vovchansk," Semenukha said.

Ukrainian troops are fighting off a Russian attack near the village of Starytsia in the region, the General Staff reported on the morning of May 20.

Over 10,500 civilians in Kharkiv Oblast had been evacuated from their homes amid heavy fighting in the region, according to Governor Oleh Syniehubov.

Russia launched a new offensive on May 10 in northern Kharkiv Oblast. According to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Moscow's forces had managed to advance as far as 10 kilometers (6 miles) in the region but had been halted by the first line of defense.

Russia's offensive in Kharkiv Oblast in mid-May could be the first of several waves, and Russian forces may target the regional capital, Kharkiv, Zelensky said in an interview with AFP on May 17.

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