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Ukraine appears to drive Russians from Kharkiv; Republicans meet Zelenskyy

Patrick J. McDonnell, Jaweed Kaleem and Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LVIV, Ukraine — Russian troops appeared to be drawing back from the outskirts of Ukraine’s second-largest city Saturday even as fighting continued to rage in other parts of the embattled nation and senior Ukrainian officials predicted a “new, long-term phase” of conflict to last through much of the summer.

Local authorities and military officials said Russian forces were retreating from north of Kharkiv, a city that has faced relentless bombardment since the war began 80 days ago, and were heading toward the Russian border. An analysis released by the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S.-based think tank, supported those claims, saying Ukraine has “likely won the battle of Kharkiv.”

“Ukrainian forces prevented Russian troops from encircling, let alone seizing Kharkiv, and then expelled them from around the city as they did to Russian forces attempting to seize Kyiv,” the institute said.

The Ukrainian gains came amid rising geopolitical tensions, as Finish and Swedish officials risked Russia’s wrath by joining a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on Saturday.

The foreign minsters of Sweden and Finland were scheduled to meet with NATO representatives in Germany after leaders of both nations expressed strong interest in joining the defense alliance. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said that he told Russian President Vladimir Putin on a phone call Saturday that the invasion of Ukraine has fundamentally changed “the security environment of Finland,” which shares a more than 800-mile-long border with Russia, and said his country will seek NATO membership “in the next few days.”

The news has been welcomed by the U.S. and several NATO member states, but has enraged Russia, which views the expansion of NATO territory as a threat to its security.


The Kremlin said Saturday that Putin had warned Niinisto that the relationship between the neighbors could be “negatively affected” if Finland applies to join NATO.

And in a sign of the economic power that Russia wields over much of Europe, on Saturday the Finnish power company Fingrid said that Russia cut off electricity supplies to the nation. A representative for the company said that Finland “can cope” and that the power grid would not be interrupted.

As Congress considers additional aid for Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday that he had met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in an unannounced visit of the GOP leader to Kyiv, the latest in a string of high-profile U.S. officials, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to have toured the Ukrainian capital in recent weeks.

The meeting was “a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the United States Congress and the American people,” Zelenskyy said on Instagram.


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