Russian attack on Kharkiv kills 2, injures 25

On May 17, local authorities reported that Kharkiv endured two devastating strikes from glide bombs, resulting in significant casualties and widespread damage.

According to Governor Oleh Syniehubov, Russian forces targeted the Kholodnohirskyi district of the city in their assault.

Tragically, by approximately 5:45 p.m. local time, the strikes claimed the lives of two men, both aged around 45, while inflicting injuries upon 18 men and one woman. The age range of the victims spans from 20 to 60 years old.

Governor Syniehubov conveyed the severity of the situation, revealing that four of the wounded individuals sustained critical injuries, while others suffered moderate harm.

By 6:25 p.m. local time, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov reported that the number of injured had escalated to 25, underscoring the magnitude of the tragedy.

As the situation continues to unfold, authorities are diligently assessing the extent of damage and casualties wrought by these merciless attacks.

Zelensky signs law allowing some convicts to serve in military

On May 17, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed into law a bill that allows citizens convicted of certain charges to serve in the military, marking a significant step in the nation's efforts to bolster its armed forces.

The Ukrainian parliament had passed the bill just last week, facilitating the voluntary mobilization of prisoners.

Notably, the list of eligible convicted citizens excludes those convicted of heinous crimes such as premeditated murder, sexual violence, drug trafficking and production, or offenses against national security.

Lawmaker Yaroslav Zhelezniak highlighted that, upon recommendations from the anti-corruption parliamentary committee, the bill also excludes lawmakers and top officials imprisoned for corruption.

However, while the initial proposal sought to allow military service for those convicted of involuntary manslaughter, the final version of the bill includes a provision excluding cases where the perpetrator was in a state of intoxication.

This initiative, initially introduced to parliament in March, aligns with Ukraine's ongoing efforts to bolster its Armed Forces amidst the protracted conflict with Russia.

According to Justice Minister Denys Maliuska, this move could potentially add up to 20,000 convicts to the ranks of the military, simultaneously alleviating overcrowding in Ukrainian prisons.

Ukraine has recently updated its legal framework to facilitate increased mobilization efforts in 2024. President Zelensky signed a new law on mobilization on April 16, imposing penalties for draft evasion.

Additionally, another law has lowered the minimum age for compulsory military service from 27 to 25, allowing men to be eligible for the draft upon reaching 25 years of age.

Russia expanding attacks in Kharkiv Oblast, 'tough battles ahead' - Commander-in-Chief

Russian forces have intensified their offensive operations in Kharkiv Oblast, prompting Ukraine to deploy additional reserve troops, according to Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi's announcement on May 17.

In a post on Telegram, Syrskyi noted that despite Moscow's efforts, they had not succeeded in making a breakthrough, but he cautioned that challenging battles lie ahead.

The new offensive, launched on May 10 with an estimated 30,000 troops, specifically targets Kharkiv Oblast, situated along the northeastern border of Ukraine with Russia. Russian forces have concentrated their efforts on the Lyptsi and Vovchansk directions, located just a few kilometers south of the border.

Syrskyi highlighted that the enemy has expanded the zone of active hostilities by nearly 70 kilometers, aiming to compel Ukraine to deploy additional reserve brigades.

Although the enemy initiated the offensive prematurely upon noticing troop rotations, they failed to breach Ukraine's defenses.

Nevertheless, Syrskyi acknowledged the likelihood of fierce battles ahead, as the enemy continues to prepare for further engagements.

Syrskyi's remarks come in the wake of President Volodymyr Zelensky's statement to journalists, indicating that Russian forces managed to advance up to 10 kilometers into Kharkiv Oblast during the offensive. However, Zelensky emphasized that the situation has since stabilized, with Ukrainian forces successfully halting the enemy's progress.

Zelensky underscored the effectiveness of Ukraine's defense lines, comprising both military and local authorities' efforts, with the third line being particularly robust due to its distance from Russian shelling.

Despite some advances by Russian forces, particularly reaching a depth of 10 kilometers in certain areas, Zelensky reassured that in other regions, there had been no significant advancement.

Washington has not changed its position on Ukrainian strikes in Russia with US weapons

At a press briefing on May 16, Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh reiterated Washington's stance on potential Ukrainian strikes with U.S.-supplied weapons on Russian territory, emphasizing that there had been no change in policy despite Russia's offensive in Kharkiv Oblast.

Singh emphasized that the equipment and capabilities provided to Ukraine, including those from the United States, should be utilized to reclaim Ukrainian sovereign territory. She underscored that this position had been publicly communicated by U.S. officials on numerous occasions.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin had discussions with his Ukrainian counterpart Rustem Umerov on how Ukraine could best utilize the provided weaponry, with the understanding that it should be employed within Ukrainian territory.

In response, President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his belief on May 16 that there should be no bans on Ukrainian defensive actions, highlighting that this was not about launching offensive strikes using Western weapons on Russian soil but rather about defending Ukrainian territory.

Zelensky drew attention to Russia's establishment of a "gray zone" on its side of the border, from which civilians had been evacuated, suggesting ominous intentions on Russia's part.

The U.S. has equipped Ukraine with long-range ATACMS missiles, which were reportedly used by Ukraine to target Russian installations in occupied Crimea. However, Ukrainian officials have indicated that Washington's restrictions would prevent similar strikes inside Russian territory.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated on May 15 that Ukraine had the autonomy to make decisions regarding the use of U.S.-supplied weapons, while emphasizing that Washington had neither enabled nor endorsed strikes outside Ukrainian territory.

In contrast, the U.K. has expressed no opposition to Ukraine employing British-supplied weapons to target Russia directly, and several other countries, including Latvia, have reportedly provided weapons to Kyiv without restrictions on strikes inside Russian territory.