After surprise attacks by Russia on the Kharkiv region, Ukraine is hastily reinforcing its troops on the border.

In response to the unexpected Russian attack and the occupation of at least nine villages, Ukraine has begun strengthening its forces on the Russian border, the Telegraph reports. Ukrainian officials warn that border villages near the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, are under 24-hour shelling and must be evacuated.

Alexander Syrskyi, the commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, admitted that the situation in the border region has worsened significantly. He added: “The situation is difficult, but the Ukrainian Defense Forces are doing everything to hold the defensive lines and positions and defeat the enemy.” Both sides have rushed to send additional equipment, weapons and soldiers to the area.

A Ukrainian soldier confirmed that the Russian attack came as a surprise. “There was no first line of defense, the Russians just walked in,” he told the BBC. The main focus of fighting is currently in the Donbas region, with opinions divided over Russia’s intentions with its attack from the Belgorod region towards Kharkiv on Friday.

Some say the attack was simply a diversionary tactic to distract Ukrainian forces from Russia’s main efforts in Donbas. Others, however, suspect that Kharkiv could be the actual target. The U.S.-based Institute for War Studies noted that Russian forces were probably not large enough to capture the city, but they still posed a significant threat.

An apartment block was hit yesterday in Belgorod, a Russian city near the Ukrainian border, injuring at least 20 people and killing seven. Analysts in Ukraine speculate that the bomb may have been accidentally dropped by a Russian warplane that had targeted cities in Ukraine.

Vovshtansk is threatened with renewed occupation – thousands are leaving the Ukrainian border town