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UK Defense Ministry: Russia deploys its Africa Corps for Kharkiv Oblast offensive

by Kateryna Denisova and The Kyiv Independent news desk May 24, 2024 5:09 PM 2 min read
Russian soldiers patrol the area surrounding the Ukrainian military unit in Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, Crimea, on March 20, 2014. (Filippo Monteforte/AFP via Getty Images)
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Moscow deployed units from the Russian Defense Ministry's Africa Corps to fight alongside Russia's regular army and Storm-Z units comprised of convicts to attack the town of Vovchansk in Kharkiv Oblast over the past week, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on May 24.

Russia launched a new offensive on May 10 in northern Kharkiv Oblast, focusing its efforts in the directions of Lyptsi and Vovchansk, settlements a few kilometers south of Russia-Ukraine border.

Moscow's forces managed to advance as far as 10 kilometers (6 miles) into the region but were halted by the first line of defense, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on May 16.

Russia "almost certainly" redeployed detachments from its Africa Corps to the Ukrainian border in April 2024 in preparation for an offensive in Kharkiv Oblast, according to the U.K. Defense Ministry report.

"It is highly likely that Russia is reinforcing its war on Ukraine with resources previously assigned to Africa," the U.K. ministry said.

Russia's Africa Corps reportedly emerged in 2013 and consists of over 2,000 soldiers and officers, as well as experienced mercenaries, many of whom previously served in the Wagner Group. This group was very likely previously deployed in Syria, Libya, Burkina Faso, and Niger, according to the ministry.

Russia has been reportedly recruiting foreigners from such countries as Nepal, Somalia, India, Cuba, and others to fight in Ukraine from the very beginning of the full-scale invasion.

Ukrainian forces halted Russian troops in the Kharkiv sector and are conducting counterattacks, Ihor Prokhorenko, a representative of the Main Operational Directorate of Ukraine's General Staff, said on May 24.

Two combat clashes are ongoing in Vovchansk as of evening May 24, Ukraine's General Staff reported.

Russia’s latest offensive into Kharkiv Oblast is stretching Ukrainian defenses
Russia’s two-pronged assault in Kharkiv Oblast that began on May 10 is exploiting Ukraine’s troop shortage, forcing it to make difficult decisions about where to commit reserves. Two weeks into the offensive, one group of Russian forces is already fighting in the streets of the town of Vovchansk
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