Russia Presses Attacks in Northeast Ukraine, Seeking Buffer Zone on Border

Russian forces continued to press a grinding advance on Saturday into northeastern Ukraine, moving closer to a village about 10 miles from the outer ring of Kharkiv and raising fears that the city, Ukraine’s second largest, could soon be within range of Russian artillery.

The Ukrainian Army said on Saturday that Russian troops had tried to break through its defenses near the village of Lyptsi, which lies directly north of Kharkiv. It said the attacks had been repelled, but maps of the battlefield compiled by independent groups analyzing publicly available video of the fighting showed that Russian troops had almost reached the outskirts of the village.

Ukraine’s Khartia Brigade, which is defending Lyptsi, posted a video on Telegram on Friday afternoon that it said showed Russian soldiers advancing on the village on foot, and attacking in small groups between tree lines. The brigade said it had targeted the Russians with rockets, forcing them to withdraw.

Russian troops opened a new front in Ukraine’s northeast a week ago, surging across the border and quickly capturing about 10 settlements in what Ukrainian officials and military analysts described as an attempt to stretch Ukraine’s already outnumbered forces.

The Khartia Brigade, for example, has been redeployed from another hot spot on the front, around Ocheretyne, a village in the southeast. Russian forces captured Ocheretyne last month, creating a breach in Ukrainian defenses.

But experts say another, perhaps more immediate goal for Russia could be to advance deep enough into Ukrainian territory to push Kyiv’s forces away from the border, creating a buffer zone that would prevent the Ukrainians from targeting Russian towns and cities with artillery. President Vladimir V. Putin said on Friday that was the goal of the current offensive.

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