Zelensky cancels all foreign trips as Ukraine pulls back troops in Russian border region

Zelensky cancels all foreign trips as Ukraine pulls back troops in Russian border region

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's office has said that he has postponed all his upcoming foreign visits amid a new Russian offensive.

Mr Zelensky cancelled all foreign visits "that were planned for the coming days", his office said on Wednesday on Telegram.

The head of state instructed his team to reschedule the visits.

"We are grateful to our partners for understanding," the announcement said.

Mr Zelensky had been expected to visit Spain, and perhaps Portugal, later this week.

Both Ukraine and Russia are increasingly using drones to carry out short-range, as well as long-range attacks.

Ukraine and the West were caught by surprise by the Russian advance in the Kharkiv region and Putin’s troops seized a number of settlements including parts of the town of Vovchansk.

In an early morning update on Wednesday, the Institute for The Study of War said: “The pace of Russian offensive operations in northern Kharkiv Oblast (province) appears to have slowed over the past 24 hours.

“Several Ukrainian military officials reported on May 14 that they believe the situation in Kharkiv Oblast is slowly stabilizing - Ukrainian officials noted that Ukrainian forces have begun to ‘clear’ Vovchansk by targeting visible Russian assault groups in the settlement.”

However, the local police chief said Russian forces were establishing positions inside Vovchansk and fighting there was intense.

"The situation is extremely difficult. The enemy is taking positions on the streets of the town of Vovchansk,” Oleksiy Kharkivskiy, Vovchansk's patrol police chief, added on Facebook.

The ISW briefing also stressed: “Several Russian and Ukrainian sources also reported that Russian forces are using new tactics in this direction, smaller assault groups of no more than five people to penetrate Ukrainian positions before merging with other small assault groups to unite into a larger strike group.

“The use of small assault groups, however, may be contributing to higher Russian manpower and materiel losses and slowing the overall pace of the Russian offensive in this direction.”

The Washington-based think tank believes that Russian army chiefs are seeking to create a “buffer zone” to stop attacks on their border regions rather than pressing ahead with an attack on Ukraine’s second biggest city, Kharkiv.

With the Russian offensive in the north of Ukraine ongoing, president Volodymyr Zelensky cancelled a visit to Spain and Portugal.

King Felipe of Spain has been due to hold a reception for the Ukrainian president on Friday and host a meal in his honour.

The Russian defence ministry said on Wednesday that its air forces destroyed ten long-range missiles known as ATACMS that Ukraine’s military launched overnight at Crimea.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Russia-installed governor of the Crimean port of Sevastopol, said that missile debris fell onto a residential area.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 in a move widely condemned as illegal by Kyiv’s Western allies and other countries.

A US official said on Tuesday that ATACMS and air defence interceptors approved by President Joe Biden on April 24 were already reaching the Ukrainian forces.

The Russian defence ministry said also that nine attack drones and several other Ukraine-launched pieces of air weapons were destroyed over the Belgorod region.

It added that five attack drones were also destroyed over Russia’s Kursk region and three over the Bryansk region.