Ukrainian forces thwart Russians at river as fight shifts to Donbas

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DERGACHI, UKRAINE (REUTERS) - Ukrainian forces destroyed parts of a Russian armoured column as it tried to cross a river in the Donbas region, video from Ukraine's military showed on Friday (May 13), as the Ukrainian defence minister predicted many weeks of grinding fighting ahead.

Ukrainian forces have driven Russia from the second-largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv in their fastest advance since Kremlin troops pulled away from Kyiv and the north-east over a month ago to focus their offensive on the Donbas region bordering Russia.

The city, which had been under fierce bombardment, has been quiet for at least two weeks and Reuters journalists have confirmed Ukraine now controls territory stretching to the Siverskyi Donets River, around 40km to the east.

However, Moscow is still bombarding villages north of Kharkiv.

Some 10km north of the city, firefighters doused smouldering wreckage in Dergachi after what local officials said was an overnight Russian missile attack on the House of Culture, used to distribute aid. Volunteers inside were trying to salvage packages of baby diapers and formula.

"I can't call it anything but a terrorist act," the mayor, Vyacheslav Zadorenko, told Reuters. "They wanted to hit the base where we store provisions and create a humanitarian catastrophe."

Another missile had slammed into the building on Thursday and Russian shelling had wounded a staff member at a clinic and killed a young couple in their home, he said.

Russia, which denies targeting civilians, said its forces had shot down a Ukrainian Su-27 aircraft in the Kharkiv region and disabled the Kremenchuk oil refinery in central Ukraine.

It was not immediately possible to verify the reports.

Southeast of Kharkiv, Britain said Ukraine had stopped Russian forces crossing the Siverskyi Donets river west of Severodonetsk. Footage released by Ukrainian Airborne Forces Command appeared to show several burnt out military vehicles near segments of a partially submerged bridge and many other damaged or abandoned vehicles, including tanks, nearby.

Reuters could not immediately verify the report, or when or where the clash took place.

The Kremlin calls its Feb 24 invasion of Ukraine a "special military operation" to demilitarise a neighbour threatening its security. Ukraine says it poses no threat to Russia and that the deaths of thousands of civilians and destruction of cities and...

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