Some military analysts say Moscow may be trying to force Ukraine to divert troops from other areas of the front line, such as around the strategic town of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region, where Russia has also been advancing.

“Donetsk and Kharkiv regions are where it is most difficult now,” Zelenskyy said in an address on Tuesday evening.

Kyiv on Wednesday cancelled some emergency power blackouts that it had introduced to deal with a drop in temperatures that strained its battered energy system.

State power operator Ukrenergo had announced a series of overnight and early morning power cuts to deal with “the cold weather amid the consequences of Russian shelling” that has destroyed swathes of Ukraine’s generating facilities.

“Emergency shutdowns in Kyiv, the Kyiv region, the Odesa region, the Donetsk region and the Dnipropetrovsk region were lifted,” DTEK, the country’s largest private energy operator said.

Blinken’s visit came just weeks after the US Congress finally approved a US$61-billion financial aid package for Ukraine following months of political wrangling, unlocking much-needed arms for the country’s outgunned troops.

His visit began as the Russian defence ministry announced that its troops had captured two more villages in the Kharkiv region. During a meeting with Blinken, Zelenskyy asked for two more Patriot air defence systems to defend the border territory.

Ukrainian officials have said that more than 30,000 Russian forces have been deployed to the northeastern region but that the regional hub, the country’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, was not threatened by the offensive.


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