KHARKIV OBLAST, UKRAINE, May 13 — Fortifications were being built around Vovchansk, Kharkiv region, but due to constant shelling, it was not easy, Tamaz Hambarashvili, the head of the Vovchansk City Military Administration, told Radio Svoboda.

The head of the Vovchansk City Military Administration said that the fortifications were built before the current offensive, but perhaps “not so tightly,” because of its proximity to the state’s border. 

On May 10, Russia launched a new ground offensive north and northeast of the Kharkiv region, moving forward in small incursions and trying to probe Ukrainian defenses. The border communities came under intense Russian shelling and air strikes with heavy glide bombs. 

Vovchansk, a city five kilometers away from the Russian border and 50 kilometers from Kharkiv, became one of the main goals of the Russian army. On May 13, General Staff reported that five battalions of the Russian army are engaged in an offensive on the city: in this direction, Russians have had tactical success.  

After deoccupation, Vovchansk has been under constant Russian mortars and artillery shelling for a year and a half.

“It is very difficult to carry out any construction work right on the border. I thank the builders and everyone who worked [there]. It was extremely difficult. Because it is very dangerous to work under fire,” says Hambarashvili.

Fortifications are designed to increase the effectiveness of weapons and military equipment, ensure stable command and control of troops, and protect troops and civilians from enemy weapons.

The conversation about lacking fortifications along the frontline began after the Armed Forces withdrew from Avdiivka on February 17, and reports about soldiers having to dig trenches under Russian fire started to come in.

Kharkiv Oblast Governor Oleh Syniehubov said the Vovchansk, Kupiansk, and Luhansk axes in the oblast had the highest priority for fortification construction. On May 3, the Ministry of Defense announced that the fortification building is almost completed in five directions, including the Kharkiv region. 

Gwara Media was in Vovchansk, a city that’s one of the main goals of Russia’s new Kharkiv offensive, and talked to people who were fleeing their homes (or staying) under heavy bombardment. Read the field report here

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  • The situation in the Kharkiv direction is still complicated. Fighting continues near Lukiantsi, Hlyboke, Olinykove, Buhruvatka, Starytsia, and Tykhe, reported Serhii Melnyk, head of the Kharkiv garrison.