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Ukraine war latest: General Staff says Russian troops halted in Kharkiv sector, Ukraine conducts counterattacks

by The Kyiv Independent news desk May 24, 2024 10:16 PM 8 min read
An aerial view of the town of Vovchansk in Kharkiv Oblast, on May 20, 2024. (Libkos/Getty Images)
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Key updates on May 24:

  • General Staff: Russian troops halted in Kharkiv sector, Ukraine conducts counterattacks
  • Putin looking for ceasefire to cement gains in Ukraine, Reuters reports citing sources
  • Attack on occupied Crimea damages communications equipment, casualties reported, partisans claim
  • First group of Ukrainian pilots passes F-16 training in US
  • Russian attacks against Ukraine kill 10, injure 48 over past day

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 at a briefing in Kyiv on May 24.

"At the moment, (Russian forces) have been halted, the situation is under control, we are carrying out counterattacks," Prokhorenko said.

Russia launched a new offensive on May 10 in northern Kharkiv Oblast. Moscow's forces had managed to advance as far as 10 kilometers (6 miles) into the region but had been halted by the first line of defense, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on May 16.

Prokhorenko described the situation on the battlefield as "difficult," saying Ukrainian soldiers continue to hold the line in the country's east and south. Kharkiv and Donetsk oblasts are the areas of the most intense fighting, he said.

"Regarding the Kharkiv sector, the enemy is conducting offensive operations to create a buffer zone," the colonel said, adding that "the situation is under control."

Russian troops are advancing in the east of Kharkiv Oblast, planning to bypass the town of Kupiansk, but have not yet succeeded, Prokhorenko said.

"Fierce fighting is ongoing almost along the entire front line. Defense forces are inflicting heavy losses on the invader; our artillery, unmanned systems, and aviation are actively working," he added.

Russian troops are "completely bogged down" in street battles for the town of Vovchansk in Kharkiv Oblast and deploying their reserves from different sectors, Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine's Armed Forces Oleksandr Syrskyi said on May 23.

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, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

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

Putin looking for ceasefire to cement gains in Ukraine, Reuters reports citing sources

Russian President Vladimir Putin is open to a ceasefire that recognizes the current front lines on the battlefield but will fight on if Ukraine and its allies do not agree, Reuters reported on May 24, citing undisclosed Russian sources.

"Putin can fight for as long as it takes, but Putin is also ready for a ceasefire – to freeze the war," a senior Russian source who has worked with him told the news outlet on condition of anonymity.

The Kyiv Independent could not verify the claims.

Except for unsuccessful talks during the early spring of 2022, there have been no direct peace negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.

Kyiv has said categorically that a full Russian withdrawal is necessary for any talks to go ahead, a condition that makes up one of the points in Ukraine's 10-point peace formula, first outlined by President Volodymyr Zelensky in the fall of 2022.

Reuters spoke to five Russian sources, three of whom said Putin had expressed frustration to advisors at what he views as Western meddling in attempts to bring Kyiv and Moscow to the negotiating table.

The sources also said Putin knows that any major battlefield successes would require a new wave of mobilization in Russia, something he hopes to avoid, fearing domestic unrest.

When asked about the reports, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Reuters that Russia was open to dialogue and did not want "eternal war."

Ukrainian officials recently said the country "clearly understands" that Russia's full-scale war will end with negotiations, but a ceasefire that recognizes Russia's claims to the territory currently under its control is unlikely to be agreed upon by Kyiv.

Instead, Ukraine continues to push its peace plan, and a global summit will be held in Switzerland next month that will be centered around Zelensky's peace formula.

"This is a real diplomatic track that has every chance of contributing to a just peace," National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksandr Lytvynenko said on May 20.

"But we do not need a two-year truce; we need a sustainable peace for decades, which would enable Ukraine's development. And this is a matter of security guarantees."

Similar reports claiming that Putin is ready for peace talks emerged earlier. Bloomberg wrote in January that, according to sources close to the Kremlin, the Russian leader was sending signals to the West indicating a willingness to compromise on Ukraine joining NATO in exchange for keeping Ukrainian territories.

Putin has made made no indication of such a concession in public.

Modi confirms India’s participation in Ukraine’s Global Peace Summit
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not yet confirmed his own attendance. “The level of participation will depend on timing, logistics, and parallel commitments,” Modi said.

Attack on occupied Crimea damages communications equipment, casualties reported, partisans claim

A missile attack on a Russian communications hub in the city of Alushta in occupied Crimea has caused "significant damage to equipment," with numerous casualties reported, the pro-Ukrainian partisan group Atesh reported on May 24.

The Crimean Wind telegram channel further reported that a large military antenna was struck in the community of Semydviria, just 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) east of Alushta. The antenna was previously used by Ukraine's military prior to Russia's occupation of Crimea in 2014.

Atesh also reported that the communications hub's command center may have been destroyed in the attack, although no information is currently available on the military facility's status.

Crimean Wind claimed that the communications center was hit by at least six U.S.-supplied ATACMS missiles. The projectiles allegedly struck the antenna as well as several buildings of the facility, where "high-ranking military personnel... were located at the moment."

"Explosions were heard in almost all regions of Crimea. Russian air defenses were active in many, but they were not very effective," the channel claimed.

Ukraine's Armed Forces have yet to take responsibility for the attack, nor have they provided comment.

Earlier on May 23, Sergey Aksyonov, the proxy head of Russian occupation authorities in Crimea, alleged that as a result of the missile attack on the Simferopol region, two bystanders were killed.

Aksyonov further claimed the attack had damaged "empty" commercial property, which was also recorded in the Alushta area.

The Kyiv Independent could not verify the claims, and no information is presently available on the extent of the casualties.

At the start of the attack, sounds of explosions were reported in Sevastopol, Yevpatoriia, and Alushta in occupied Crimea during the late hours of May 23, according to Suspilne Crimea.

At around 10:18 p.m. local time, Suspilne reported hearing explosions in Yevpatoriia. By 10:30 p.m., passenger transport had been suspended in Sevastopol. A video later surfaced online, presumably depicting an explosion in the Alushta district on the southern coast of Crimea. At least five explosions were reported in Alushta.

Within the hour, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Krym Realii announced that residents heard three explosions near the territory of the Belbek airfield in Sevastopol, as well as the work of air defense from Novofedorivka. A total of eight explosions were allegedly heard.

The Crimean Wind telegram channel reported around 0:26 a.m. that a fire had broken out at a military site in the community of Semydviria, about 4 kilometers east of Alushta.

Additional sounds of explosions were reported by residents of Sevastopol around 3 a.m., according to Crimean Wind.

General Staff confirms Russian missile ship Tsiklon struck in occupied Crimea
The ship was reportedly hit during an attack that the Ukrainian Navy said resulted in the destruction of the Russian minesweeper Kovrovets.

First group of Ukrainian pilots passes F-16 training in US

The first batch of Ukrainian pilots graduated from the F-16 training program in Arizona, a spokesperson of the U.S. Air National Guard, Erin Hannigan, told Politico in comments published on May 23.

Ukraine is bound to receive dozens of American-made fourth-generation fighter jets from the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, and Norway. Several countries, including the U.S., pledged to assist Ukrainian aviators with the necessary training under the fighter jet coalition framework.

Hannigan did not disclose the number of the first graduates or the exact date of graduation "out of an abundance of caution for their safety."

The aviators will now move to Europe for additional training, Politico wrote, citing an undisclosed source.

The first group of Ukrainian pilots began training at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona, last October. The lessons are facilitated by the Air National Guard's 162nd Wing.

Other pilots are receiving training in Denmark, and Romania also opened an F-16 training facility for Ukrainian aviators.

Earlier this week, the Dutch Defense Ministry announced that the first 10 Ukrainian military personnel completed F-16 maintenance training in the Netherlands.

F-16s for Ukraine: When will they arrive and what can they do?
The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is an American air superiority fighter that Kyiv has begged for since the start of the full-scale invasion and is expected to finally start receiving this year. It’s a versatile workhorse of a jet that’s fought in dozens of wars and is

Russian attacks against Ukraine kill 10, injure 48 over past day

Russian attacks against Ukraine killed at least 10 people and injured at least 48 over the past day, the vast majority of them in Kharkiv Oblast, regional officials reported early on May 24.

An S-300 missile attack against Kharkiv hit a local printing shop, setting it on fire and killing seven of its employees. Twenty-one other civilians were injured in the city, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said.

Throughout May 23 and overnight, two more people were reportedly killed and 23 were injured, including an 11-year-old boy, in Kharkiv and elsewhere in the oblast.

In Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, Russian drone and artillery strikes against the Nikopol district injured two civilians and damaged a four-story building, a shop, and cars, Governor Serhii Lysak said.

Russian attacks against Donetsk Oblast injured two residents of Toretsk, according to Governor Vadym Filashkin.

In Zaporizhzhia Oblast, one man was killed in a Russian attack against the Polohy district, Governor Ivan Fedorov said.

Chernihiv, Kherson, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, and Sumy oblasts also came under attack, but no casualties were reported.

Zelensky visits Kharkiv printing house destroyed in Russian attack
“Yesterday, a Russian missile strike killed seven people here,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a post on social media, adding: “My condolences go out to their families and friends. Twenty-one people were injured.”
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