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Russian forces have isolated occupied settlements in northeast Ukraine in the Kharkiv region Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense said Thursday, adding that they have been firing upon volunteer aid workers.

“There is an absolute ban on the delivery of humanitarian trucks from controlled Ukraine territory,” the ministry warned in a Facebook post. “Locals have been warned that volunteers trying to deliver help are being shot.”

A man tries to extinguish a fire following a Russian bombardment at a residential neighborhood in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday.

A man tries to extinguish a fire following a Russian bombardment at a residential neighborhood in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday.
(AP/Felipe Dana)

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The ministry said the isolated settlements were in the Velykyi Burluk district – an area just 20 miles from the Russian border.

Russia has been utilizing the Kharkiv region as it re-enforces its offensive in eastern Ukraine.

All evacuation routes have also reportedly been blocked from the area with departures allowed “exclusively to the territory of the Russian Federation.”

The defense ministry said that mobile phones were not working and many were without electricity. Access to ATMs, medical services and basic needs were also unavailable, and the ministry noted that consumer goods were being “sold at significantly overpriced prices.”

Kharkiv is roughly 30 miles from the Russian border and sits along a major thoroughfare that the invading forces have relied on as they head south toward the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

U.S. defense officials have warned that Russia is looking to pinch the Luhansk and Donetsk regions – commonly referred to as the Donbas – by pushing forces down from the north through Kharkiv and up through the southeast port city of Mariupol.

Responders are seen at the scene after a building destroyed by a Russian rocket attack in downtown Kharkiv

Responders are seen at the scene after a building destroyed by a Russian rocket attack in downtown Kharkiv
(Photo by Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

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Russia continues to aggressively target the strategically important port city and claimed victory over it Thursday despite Ukrainian claims that they have not yet taken the city as thousands remain holed up in tunnels under a steel plant.

Ukraine is still trying to evacuate civilians stuck in areas around the southern city of Kherson – roughly 260 miles southwest from Mariupol and 80 miles north of the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula – where guerilla warfare continues to rage.

Russian military vehicles move on a highway in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces near Mariupol, Ukraine, on Monday.

Russian military vehicles move on a highway in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces near Mariupol, Ukraine, on Monday.
(AP/Alexei Alexandrov)

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Reports surfaced Thursday alleging that Russia had raised its flags over Kherson’s WWII eternal flame memorial after occupying it for roughly eight weeks, but Ukrainian forces have reportedly retaken villages near the city.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk said Ukrainian officials were working to secure evacuation routes from three villages northeast of the city.

 

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