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The Ukrainian city of Kharkiv was hit with 53 artillery and rocket launches over the past 24 hours, a regional official announced Wednesday, as Russian forces continue to head toward eastern Ukraine.
“Our Armed Forces are constantly fighting to prevent the enemy from passing to Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” head of the Kharkiv regional state administration Oleg Synegubov announced on Telegram.
“Russians continue to terrorize civilians,” he added. “Unfortunately, during the past 24 hours, 22 civilians, including three children, were injured in the shelling of the region. Seven people died.”
RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE: LIVE UPDATES
Kharkiv is roughly 30 miles from the Russian border and sits along a major thoroughfare that the invading forces will need to take to head south toward the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
A senior US defense official told reporters Tuesday that Russian forces would likely be sticking to the roads as Moscow attempts to send a second convoy into Ukraine, this time headed toward the eastern front.
The changing spring weather means a ground invasion could prove more difficult for Russia and heavily-armored vehicles will be prevented from off-roading as the grounds thaw.
Despite the nearly 50 days of heavy shelling, Synegubov advised Kharkiv residents not to evacuate and said, “Our armed forces destroy a lot of equipment and manpower of Russians every day.”
“Believe in our defenders and keep calm,” he added.
RUSSIAN CONVOY HEADS FOR EASTERN UKRAINE, DEFENSE OFFICIAL SAYS WEATHER WILL FORCE TROOPS TO STICK TO ROADS
It is unclear if the Russian convoy was responsible for any of the shelling that targeted Kharkiv in the last 24 hours, but a senior US security official said Tuesday that it did not appear Ukrainian forces had started hitting the convoy.
The Russian troops are believed to be transporting a mix of personnel and armored vehicles to support what western officials have described as a “major offensive” now being directed in eastern Ukraine.
The convoy is believed to be roughly 77 miles south of Kharkiv outside the city of Izyum – roughly 16 miles from the Donbas regional border – and a slow-moving operation.
Defense officials are unclear on where exactly the procession of Russian troops is headed.
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Russian forces are assessed to have maintained just over 80% of their combat force since Moscow’s invasion 47 days ago.
But officials have also warned that Russia could be looking to recruit as many as 60,000 more troops to aid in its deadly campaign.