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Ukraine war latest: Russian strike on Kharkiv hypermarket kills 16; Zelensky says Moscow increasing presence near northern border

by Daria Shulzhenko and The Kyiv Independent news desk May 26, 2024 10:49 PM 8 min read
The aftermath of the Russian attack on an "Epitsentr" hypermarket in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 25, 2024. (Denys Klymenko/Gwara Media/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)
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Key developments on May 25-26:

  • Russia strikes hypermarket in Kharkiv, killing 16, including a child
  • Russia launches another attack on Kharkiv, hours after deadly hypermarket strike, injuring 25
  • Zelensky, Kuleba, other officials call for more air defense after Kharkiv strike
  • Zelensky: Russia forming another grouping of forces near Ukraine's northern border
  • Russian shell production three times greater than of Ukraine's allies
  • Russia launches overnight attacks across Ukraine on May 26
  • Ukraine says Russian Su-25 jet downed in Donetsk Oblast

Russia hit a building materials hypermarket in Kharkiv in the middle of the day on May 25, killing 16 people and injuring 44.

Among those killed is a 12-year-old girl and her mother, reported Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleh Syniehubov. Eight people were considered missing as of 6 p.m. on May 26, according to the governor.

Following the attack, President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Telegram that more than 200 people may have been inside the hypermarket when it was hit.

Russia attacked the hypermarket with two guided bombs, causing a large-scale fire. The rescue operation there is still underway.

As of the evening of May 26, only 30% of the rubble have been cleared, said Syniehubov.

"We are suspending operations during air raid alerts, as the (Russian) occupier is not employing the tactic of double strikes for the first time," Syniehubov wrote on Telegram.

A aerial view of the destroyed construction hypermarket "Epicentr" at dawn on May 26, 2024, in Kharkiv. Russia launched a missile attack on the hypermarket "Epicentr" in the middle of the day on May 25, killing 16 people. (Photo by Kostiantyn Liberov/Libkos/Getty Images)

Russia launches another attack on Kharkiv, hours after deadly hypermarket strike, injuring 25

Mere hours after the attack on the hypermarket, Russian forces launched a second strike on Kharkiv's city center, injuring at least 25 people.

Among those injured is a 14-year-old boy, according to the regional prosecutor's office.

The strike hit a dense residential area, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said in a Telegram post.

Earlier on May 10, Russia launched a new offensive in northern Kharkiv Oblast with a reported 30,000 troops. According to 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.

Russian forces regularly conduct ground shelling and aerial attacks against population centers in Kharkiv Oblast. Local Ukrainian authorities have also reported instances of civilian executions at the hands of Russian troops.

Following the May 25 attacks on Kharkiv, Zelensky and other officials have called for more air defense for Ukraine.

"When we tell world leaders that Ukraine requires adequate air defense protection, that true decisiveness is required to ensure the effective protection of our people's lives and that Russian terrorists cannot even approach our borders, we are literally talking about how not to allow such terrorist strikes," Zelensky said in his statement.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also called on Ukraine's partners to "provide Ukraine with additional air defense and support for Ukrainian strikes on military targets in Russia" in a post on X on May 25.

Additional air defense, and the ability to shoot down Russia's military aircraft before they drop bombs is the only way to prevent such "barbaric war crimes against civilians," Kuleba wrote.

The European Union's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, also condemned Russia's attack against a hypermarket in Kharkiv and urged Europe to send Ukraine additional air defense in a social media post on May 26.

"These systematic Russian crimes against civilians and civilian infrastructure stress again the need for Europe to urgently ramp up support for air defense: it saves lives and protects Ukrainian towns," he wrote.

48 hours in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s most-bombed major city
The first signs that something ominous is happening in Kharkiv come as soon as the train from Kyiv reaches the suburbs of the city – as two pillars of smoke appear in the distance, every single phone in the carriage erupts with a piercing electronic squawking. “I guess we’ve arrived,

Zelensky: Russia forming another grouping of forces near Ukraine's northern border

Russia is forming another grouping of troops near Ukraine's northern border amid the ongoing offensive in Kharkiv Oblast, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on May 26.

Zelensky’s statement comes as Russia launched a new offensive in northern Kharkiv Oblast on May 10.

"Right now, these days, we are defending ourselves 60 kilometers northeast from this place from yet another attempt of the Russian assault," Zelensky said in the address recorded at the Kharkiv printing house destroyed in a Russian May 23 strike that killed seven people.

"Russia is preparing for offensive actions also 90 kilometers northwest from here – they gather another group of troops near our border... The one who does all this doesn't want peace."

Zelensky emphasized the scale of Russia's daily air attacks against Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, located less than 30 kilometers from the border with Russia.

"More than a million people in this city. And every night and every day, the Russian army is shelling the city, mostly with S-300 missiles. These are air defense missiles that Russia employs to terrorize the land. There is not a single district or street in Kharkiv that hasn't suffered from this regular cruelty," the president 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

Russian shell production 3 times greater than of Ukraine's allies

Russia is managing to produce artillery shells at triple the speed of Ukraine’s allies for a quarter of the price, Sky News reported on May 26, referencing analysis from management consulting firm Bain & Company.

Using publicly available data, the firm claims that Russian factories can produce or refurbish 4.5 million 152 mm shells this year for $1,000 per round. European countries and the U.S. are only expected to produce 1.3 million 155 mm shells combined, at an average cost of $4,000 per unit.

Slow artillery production has hindered Ukraine’s progress on the battlefield. Soldiers claim that for every round they fire, Russia launches around five back.

A Senior Lieutenant with the 57th Brigade in Kharkiv Oblast, told Sky News that Ukraine urgently needs more supplies.

However, he added that Ukrainian soldiers are making every round count and are able to destroy a target with one, two, or three shells.

An ammunition shortage has long been a cause for concern in Ukraine but has escalated this year. The EU failed to deliver on its promise to produce 1 million artillery shells between March 2023 and 2024 while disputes in Washington led to a severe delay in a $61 billion aid package.

Ukraine’s drone companies face ‘death, migration, or global acquisition’ amid defense spending squeeze
A surge of domestic drone companies in Ukraine has outpaced what the government budget can support, leading many companies to increasingly seek international partnerships or face consolidation. Drones have become a transformative part of Ukraine’s military strategy. The country’s ability to mass pr…

Russia launches overnight attacks across Ukraine on May 26

Russian troops launched a large-scale aerial attack against Ukraine on the night of May 26, causing explosions in multiple regions and injuring at least three people.

The Air Force announced an aerial alert throughout the country, including the far-western oblasts, in the early hours of May 26, citing the threat of Russian missiles, drones, Tu-95MS bombers, and later, Kinzhal ballistic missiles.

Russian forces attacked Vinnytsia Oblast in the early hours of May 26, hitting residential buildings and injuring three people, Governor Serhii Borzov reported.  

In Mykolaiv Oblast, Governor Vitalii Kim reported that Russian drones damaged the windows of a preschool building. He also said air defense units destroyed three drones over the region.

Explosions were heard in Khmelnytskyi Oblast at around 3:30 a.m. local time, according to a correspondent from the news outlet Suspilne. Shortly thereafter, explosions were reported in Zhytomyr and Kyiv oblasts.

The Air Force reported the morning of May 26 that over the course of the night, Ukrainian air defense units intercepted 31 Shahed drones and 12 Kh-101/Kh-555 cruise missiles over Mykolaiv, Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava, Zaporizhzhia, Khmelnytskyi, Kirovohrad, Vinnytsia and Chernihiv oblasts.

Glide bombs help Russia gain land in Ukraine. What makes them so effective?
One critical factor in Russia’s recent battlefield successes in Ukraine is its extensive use of glide bombs. Every week, hundreds of these large, deadly weapons rain down on Ukraine, creating 20-meter-wide craters and obliterating military positions and entire settlements. Russia has heavily relie…

Ukraine says Russian Su-25 jet downed in Donetsk Oblast

Anti-aircraft gunners of the 110th Mechanized Brigade have destroyed another Russian Su-25 attack aircraft in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine's military said on May 25.

"Another enemy Su-25 attack aircraft is burning up in the steppes of the Ukrainian Donbas," the Khortytsia operational and strategic group said in a post on Telegram.

This is the sixth Russian Su-25 jet that Ukraine has claimed shot down this month.

The Soviet-designed Su-25, nicknamed "Frogfoot" by NATO, is a heavily armored ground-attack aircraft that provides close air support for Russian ground troops. The aircraft helps Russia carry out intense attacks in multiple sections of the eastern front, which covers much of Donetsk Oblast.

Also, as of May 26, Russia has lost over 500,000 troops in its all-out war against Ukraine. The figures from the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces do not specify killed or wounded.

The overall consensus is that it includes dead, wounded, missing and captured.

As Russian losses in Ukraine hit 500,000, Putin buries future demographic risks at home
According to Ukraine’s General Staff, over half a million Russian soldiers were either killed or wounded in Ukraine during the 27-month-long full-scale war. The staggering number is in line with the estimates of the U.K. and France, which said earlier in May that the overall Russian losses are set
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