Ukraine accused Russia on Thursday of capturing dozens of civilians in the border town of Vovchansk and using them as "human shields" as Moscow wages a new offensive there.

The head of police investigations in Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv region said on television that "35 to 40" people were being held captive and that Russia was interrogating them.

"The Russians keep them in one place and actually use them as a human shield, as their command headquarters is nearby," Sergiy Bolvinov said.

"We do not have information on whether there are children among the hostages. There were mainly elderly people who did not want to leave their homes," he said.

AFP was not able to immediately verify Bolvinov's claims.

Ukraine has evacuated almost 9,000 people in the week since Russian forces stormed across the border in a surprise ground assault, advancing towards Vovchansk and nearby villages.


Russian soldiers have previously been accused of executing civilians in parts of Ukraine they captured and controlled since the February 2022 invasion.

In April 2022, the bodies of dozens of civilians, some with their hands tied up, were found in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha after a month-long occupation by Russian forces.

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