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Ukraine war latest: Zelensky says Russia's Kharkiv offensive failed; Ukraine hits Russian Su-57 aircraft for first time

by Daria Shulzhenko and The Kyiv Independent news desk June 9, 2024 9:40 PM 7 min read
Ukrainian soldiers from the 13th Brigade of the National Guard fire artillery in their fighting position in the direction of the Russian border in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on June 3, 2024. (Jose Colon/Anadolu via Getty Images)
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Key developments on June 8, 9:

  • Zelensky: Russia failed to fulfill its Kharkiv operation
  • Military intelligence: Ukraine hits Russian Su-57 jet for first time
  • Collaborator ex-mayor of Kupiansk in 'critical condition' after assassination attempt in Russia, military intelligence says
  • Russia sends students from Africa to fight in its war against Ukraine, Bloomberg reports
  • Biden warns that Putin is 'not going to stop at Ukraine'

Russian troops failed their Kharkiv Oblast offensive, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening address on June 8 after meeting with Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi.

Moscow launched a new offensive on May 10 in Kharkiv Oblast, where it reportedly managed to advance as far as 10 kilometers (6 miles) before Ukraine halted the advance near the first line of defense.

"A very significant result is that the Russian army failed. The direction is strengthened. And it will be strengthened more," Zelensky said.

Russia has reduced offensive operations in northeastern Kharkiv Oblast despite eyeing a further advance, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said earlier in the day.

Ukrainian troops are restraining Russian forces "as much as possible" and destroying their units, according to Zelensky.

Since launching a new offensive, Russia reportedly controls a handful of villages on two separate axes in Kharkiv Oblast, one near the town of Vovchansk and the other near Lyptsi village.

Ukrainian forces control "most of Vovchansk" as of June 8, Nazar Voloshyn, the spokesperson of the Khortytsia group of forces, said on national television. The town is described by Ukrainian officials as almost destroyed, while Russia keeps attacking other neighboring settlements, inflicting civilian casualties.

The most difficult battlefield situation is reportedly in Donetsk Oblast. Russia is continuing to push on multiple directions, Ukraine's General Staff said in its latest update.

"We are working to provide more reserves for our army," Zelensky said.

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Ukraine hits Russian Su-57 jet for first time

Ukraine's military intelligence agency (HUR) reported on June 9 that a Su-57 fighter jet stationed in Russia has been hit for the first time.

The aircraft was reportedly damaged after a strike on the Akhtubinsk airfield in the Astrakhan region in southern Russia, 589 kilometers from the front line.

Satellite images show that the jet was intact on June 7, but suffered explosive damage after an attack on June 8. On that day, Russia reported a drone attack on several regions, including Astrakhan.

The plane is Russia’s most modern fighter jet with only a few units in service in the Russian air force. It can carry Kh-59 and Kh-69 cruise missiles that regularly attack Ukraine, including civilian targets.

Ukraine managed to down six Russian fighter jets last month across front line regions. However, those were largely Su-25 jets used to close air support for ground troops.

"The defeat of the Su-57 is the first such case in history," HUR said.

On May 17, Ukraine hit the Balbek Airfield in occupied Crimea. The attack damaged three planes stationed there: one Su-27 and two MiG-31s.

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Collaborator ex-mayor of Kupiansk in 'critical condition' after assassination attempt in Russia

Ukraine's military intelligence agency (HUR) reported on June 8 that a collaborator from Kharkiv Oblast is in "critical condition" after an assassination attempt in Russia.

The life of Hennadii Matsehora, the former mayor of the city of Kupiansk in the country's northeast, was targeted on June 7 in the city of Stary Oskol in Belgorod Oblast, HUR reported in a Telegram post. It did not disclose further details about the incident.

At the onset of the full-scale invasion, some local officials decided to side with Russia when their cities, towns, or villages – especially in Kharkiv and Kherson oblasts – were invaded by Moscow's forces. Ukraine has arrested its nationals who remain in Ukrainian-controlled territories and had worked for Russia's interests during occupation.

According to HUR, Matsehora "voluntarily went into full cooperation" with Russian troops when they invaded Kupiansk shortly after the full-scale war began in February 2022, and the signed so-called protocol to establish proxy administration in the city.

Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleh Syniehubov has said in July 2022 that Matsehora provided Russian troops with transport, housing, fuel, and food.

Many collaborators fled to Russia when Ukraine liberated swathes of territories in the northeast, including Kupiansk, during the successful counteroffensive of September 2022.

State Bureau of Investigation has investigated over 1,600 treason cases since start of full-scale invasion
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Russia reportedly sends students from Africa to fight in its war against Ukraine

Russia has added extra manpower for its offensive in Kharkiv Oblast, forcing "thousands of migrants and foreign students" to fight alongside its troops in its war against Ukraine, Bloomberg reported on June 9, citing unnamed European officials.

According to the report, Russian officials have been threatening African students and young workers not to extend their visas unless "they agree to join the military." Such a tactic was first deployed by the Russian Wagner mercenary group, Bloomberg reported.

While Russia has also been enlisting convicts, some Africans on work visas "have been detained and forced to decide between deportation or fighting," Bloomberg cited an anonymous European official.

"Some of those people had been able to bribe officials to stay in the country and still avoid military service," the report reads.

This is not the first time the Russian military is reported to have started bringing prisoners, migrants, and foreign nationals into its ranks.

Last September, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported that Russia was stepping up its campaign to recruit foreigners in neighboring countries and exploited migrant workers for its war against Ukraine.

The push to recruit foreigners and migrant workers "allows the Kremlin to acquire additional personnel for its war effort in the face of mounting casualties," the ministry said.

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Biden warns Putin 'not going to stop at Ukraine'

During a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on June 8, the U.S. President Joe Biden cautioned that the Kremlin's aggression would continue beyond Ukraine if successful.

"(Russian dictator Vladimir) Putin is not going to stop at Ukraine.... All of Europe will be threatened. We are not going to let that happen," he said.  

"The United States is standing strong with Ukraine. We will not — I say it again — walk away."

Biden arrived in France on June 5 and, along with Macron, attended the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings on June 6 in Normandy. He then met with President Volodymyr Zelensky on June 7. In his D-Day address on June 7, Biden emphasized the importance of defending democracy both at home and abroad.

"As we gather here today, it’s not just to honor those who showed such remarkable bravery on June 6, 1944," he said.

"It’s to listen to the echo of their voices, to hear them because they are summoning us. They’re asking us what we will do. They’re not asking us to scale these cliffs. They’re asking us to stay true to what America stands for."

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