Ukraine war latest: Zelensky says situation in Kharkiv 'difficult' but 'under control,' Russia suffering 'significant losses'

Key updates on May 16:

  • Zelensky in Kharkiv: Situation 'difficult' but 'under control,' Russia suffers losses

  • Denmark announces more than $815 million in new military assistance for Ukraine

  • Minister: Russia captures, shoots civilians in northern Vovchansk

  • Source: Ukrainian drones attack Russian defense manufacturer's facilities in Tula

  • Partisans: Ammunition depot hit at Belbek airfield in occupied Crimea

President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Kharkiv on May 16 and received reports from military commanders on the battlefield situation in the oblast.

Russia launched a new offensive with 30,000 troops on May 10, targeting Kharkiv Oblast, which is situated at the two countries' shared border in northeastern Ukraine.

Moscow's troops have focused their efforts in the directions of Lyptsi and Vovchansk, two settlements a few kilometers south of the border. According to the latest information, there is ongoing combat in the northern outskirts of Vovchansk.

Zelensky said that he had received detailed reports on the situation from Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of the Khortytsia group of forces, Yurii Sodol, and the commander of the operational-tactical group "Kharkiv," Mykhailo Drapatyi.

"As of today, the situation in Kharkiv Oblast is generally under control, our soldiers are inflicting significant losses" on Russian troops, Zelensky said.

"However, the situation remains difficult, we are reinforcing our units."

The president also received reports from the heads of intelligence services on Russian plans.

"A plan for further actions has been defined, both for Kharkiv Oblast's regional authorities and all security structures in the region," Zelensky said.

Read also: Russia’s new Kharkiv offensive pushes Vovchansk to the brink of annihilation

Denmark announces more than $815 million in new military assistance for Ukraine

The Danish government announced a new package of military assistance for Ukraine on May 16 worth 5.6 billion Danish kroner (~$815 million).

The package is the 18th such delivery of military aid, the Danish Defense Ministry said. It includes 2.4 billion Danish kroner ($349 million) earmarked for air defense, as well as artillery pieces, shells, and other ammunition.

The package also allocates funds for future support of Ukraine's F-16 fighter jets, which will likely begin arriving in the summer. The Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, and Norway have pledged to supply Ukraine with dozens of U.S.-made fourth-generation jets.

Denmark earlier confirmed it would send the first batch of the fighter jets to Ukraine this summer, while the Netherlands plans to start delivering them in the autumn.

"With today's donation, we meet Ukraine's urgent need for more air defense, artillery, and ammunition," said Foreign Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

"The situation in Ukraine is very serious. There is no doubt that the Ukrainians need continued and massive support from allies," said Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen.

"With this package, we are sending an unequivocal signal to both Ukraine and the outside world."

According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), which tracks international aid for Ukraine, Denmark is the fourth largest provider of military aid to Kyiv, committing around 4.7 billion euros ($5.1 billion) as of February 2024.

At 1.3% of GDP, Denmark is the second largest provider of military aid in terms of percentage of GDP.

Read also: Denmark donates $33 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine

Minister: Russia captures, shoots civilians in northern Vovchansk

Russian forces are taking Ukrainian civilians captive and preventing their evacuation in the embattled northern part of Vovchansk in Kharkiv Oblast, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko said on May 16.

"We know of (the) first cases of executions of civilians by the Russian military," Klymenko said on his Telegram channel.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry confirmed on May 15 that Russian units had entered the northern parts of the town, but the Ukrainian military reportedly prevented them from establishing a foothold deeper in Vovchansk.

Klymenko reported on a case when a Vovchansk resident was killed by Russian soldiers after he refused to obey their orders and attempted to escape on foot. Police investigators had opened a criminal case on the grounds of violations of rules of war.

Other civilians are being taken into captivity and forced into basements, according to the minister.

Ukraine's police officers continue evacuating people in spite of the ongoing hostilities, he added.

As of February, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has verified 30,457 civilian casualties, including 19,875 injured, as a result of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The OHCHR noted that the real number is likely higher. Russia does not allow monitoring in occupied territories, some of which likely suffered the heaviest costs in civilian lives, such as Mariupol.

A U.N. report from last December said that the international organization had documented 142 cases of summary executions of Ukrainian civilians by Russian forces.

Read also: Author of famous Azovstal photos on documenting Ukraine’s iron resistance in Mariupol

Source: Ukrainian drones attack Russian defense manufacturer's facilities in Tula

Drones operated by Ukraine's military intelligence agency (HUR) hit production facilities of the state-owned Russian weapons manufacturing company "Basalt" in the city of Tula overnight on May 16, a military intelligence source told the Kyiv Independent.

Russian air defenses shot down two drones over Tula Oblast, one over Bryansk Oblast, one over Kaluga Oblast, one over Belgorod Oblast, and six over occupied Crimea at night, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed.

"Basalt" is reportedly the main defense enterprise for the production and supply of weapons and ammunition for Russia's Ground Forces, Air Force and Navy, headquartered in Moscow.

The source did not specify the scale of the consequences of the attack.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) targeted an oil depot in Belgorod Oblast and an electrical substation in Lipetsk Oblast on May 13, according to the Kyiv Independent's source in Ukraine's security services.

Two days earlier, Ukraine's military intelligence claimed it was behind the attack on the oil refinery in Volgograd. The Kaluganefteprodukt oil depot and the Novolipetsk metallurgical plant were also reportedly struck by drones.

Partisans: Ammunition depot hit at Belbek airfield in occupied Crimea

The main missile and artillery depot of the Russian Belbek military airfield near occupied Sevastopol was damaged on the evening of May 15, according to the partisan group Atesh.

The Crimean Wind Telegram channel claimed earlier that the Belbek airfield was attacked, and a fuel depot caught fire as a result of the strike, according to eyewitnesses. Explosions were reported in occupied Sevastopol, Simferopol, Dzhankoi, and Hvardiiske.

The partisans claim that the damaged depot stored "most of the missiles" for Russian Su-27 and Su-30 fighter jets as well as MiG-31 aircraft, a carrier of Kinzhal ballistic missiles that Russia uses to attack Ukraine. The partisans did not explicitly say whether the stored ammunition included Kinzhals.

"There was also significant damage to the airfield's infrastructure as a result of (a) secondary detonation," Atesh claimed.

Russia's Defense Ministry alleged that five U.S.-supplied ATACMS missiles were intercepted overnight by air defenses.

The Ukrainian military has not commented on the attacks. The Kyiv Independent could not verify all these claims.

Explosions were reportedly heard in occupied Sevastopol, and fires were burning near the Belbek military airfield earlier overnight on May 15.

Sevastopol is also home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet and is frequently targeted by Ukrainian missile and naval drone strikes.

Russian authorities regularly claim to have downed Ukrainian missiles and drones without reporting damage, though later reports at times emerge showing military targets or infrastructure that appear to have been struck.

Read also: Updated: Ukraine destroys Russian fast attack craft in occupied Crimea

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