Ukraine says Russian Kharkiv offensive expands combat zone by 70 km

General Oleksandr Syrskyi stated the Russian push has ignited fierce fighting across a broader front as Moscow attempts to draw more Ukrainian reserve forces into battle.

Ukraine’s top military commander says Russian forces have expanded the active combat area by nearly 70 kilometres (43 miles) with their renewed offensive targeting the northern Kharkiv region.

In public remarks on Friday, General Oleksandr Syrskyi stated the Russian push has ignited fierce fighting across a broader front as Moscow attempts to draw more Ukrainian reserve forces into battle.

He said Russia likely aims to overstretch and exhaust Ukraine’s defences by forcing the deployment of additional brigades to shore up the Kharkiv front. Ukrainian troops have been working feverishly to hold the line around the country’s second-largest city.

Syrskyi warned that fighting could further intensify in the coming days and spread to neighbouring Sumy, another northern region bordering Russia. Ukrainian forces there are already preparing defensive positions and fortifications, he said.

The dire assessment lays bare the immense pressure facing outmanned Ukrainian forces as Russia reroutes troops and equipment toward seizing more ground in the Kharkiv region. After months of grinding battles in the east, Moscow’s revived northern offensive represents a dangerous new front in the grinding attritional war.

Russia has made incremental but steady advances around Kharkiv over the past week, inching towards the city’s outer defensive rings. Videos and satellite imagery depict heavy combat amid flattened villages and burning fields across the largely rural area.

Syrskyi’s remarks align with assessments by Western military officials who say Russia is trying to gain a foothold around Kharkiv, cut key Ukrainian supply routes and potentially isolate the city. That would expand Moscow’s territorial grip in eastern Ukraine while setting the stage for more offensive operations.

Ukraine insists its forces still maintain defensive lines around Kharkiv while repelling some Russian attacks. But with Putin reinforcing operations, more reserves are being urgently mobilized to fill gaps and buttress the thinly stretched northern front.

The Ukrainian military had concentrated the bulk of its best-equipped forces and Western-supplied arms in the south and east for its own planned counteroffensive. Russia’s aggression in Kharkiv may force a redeployment of troops and a shift in priorities to defend the imperilled region.