Ukraine appoints new commander in Kharkiv as Russian attack intensifies

The change in leadership comes as Russian troops have launched intensified attacks along the Kharkiv border in what Ukrainian officials described as an attempt to stretch the frontlines and disperse Ukraine’s defensive efforts.

Ukraine has appointed a new commander to oversee the defense of the northeastern Kharkiv region, where Russian forces have launched a renewed offensive and made incremental territorial gains in recent days.

Military spokesperson Nazar Voloshyn announced on Monday that Brigadier General Mykhailo Drapatyi has taken over command of Ukraine’s forces in the Kharkiv sector as of May 11th. The previous commander was not named, and no official reason was given for the shakeup.

The change in leadership comes as Russian troops have launched intensified attacks along the Kharkiv border in what Ukrainian officials described as an attempt to stretch the frontlines and disperse Ukraine’s defensive efforts.

Despite being pushed back from Kharkiv city last year, Russian forces have now managed to advance several miles into the region, reportedly capturing around 62 miles (100 km) of territory previously held by Ukraine, according to the BBC.

Russia claims its troops have even entered the border town of Vovchansk, though Ukraine disputes having lost full control. Vovchansk has come under heavy Russian bombardment, forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents.

While the Russian gains in Kharkiv remain relatively modest so far compared to the grinding battle in the Donbas, they have raised alarm about a potential new offensive from the north aimed at diverting Ukraine’s resources.

By installing a new battlefield commander in Kharkiv, Kyiv is likely seeking stronger leadership and tactical coordination as it tries to repel the renewed Russian assaults in that region.

Ukraine had previously routed Russian forces from around Kharkiv in a major counteroffensive last year. But it now faces the challenge of defending that territory while also preparing its own long-awaited spring counter-offensive in other areas.