Despite the advance notice from the UK, Kiev’s defense lines on the border were “thin to absent,” the paper said FILE PHOTO. © Sputnik/Stanislav Krasilnikov

The UK warned Ukraine ahead of the Russian offensive in Kharkov Region, but Kiev failed to prepare for the attack that resulted in Moscow’s troops making rapid gains, The Guardian reported on Thursday, citing sources.

British intelligence provided Ukraine with advance warning about the attack, according to one of the newspaper’s sources, although he did not say how much time Kiev had to prepare.

However, the alert had followed a public warning by Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, saying Moscow could move to establish a “cordon sanitaire” in Kiev-controlled territories to protect civilians in Russian border regions, particularly in Belgorod, from indiscriminate Ukrainian artillery and drone bombardment.

Given that Ukrainian officials had also reported a concentration of Russian troops in the area ahead of the offensive, “it might have been expected that the attack would be swiftly repulsed,” The Guardian said.

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However, Ukrainian defensive lines “were thin to absent” in Kharkov Region, the paper said. As a result, the Russian Defense Ministry reported the capture of several border settlements in Kharkov Region in recent days.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky recently admitted that Kiev was not ready to meet a large-scale Russian attack due to delays in Western arms shipments. He has canceled scheduled trips to Spain and Portugal, heading to Kharkov instead. Zelensky described the situation as “very serious,” but promised that Kiev was redeploying reinforcements to the area from other frontline sectors.

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On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Kiev to reassure Ukraine that it was “not alone” in the face of the Russian onslaught. He noted that the country was now going through its “critical moment” on the battlefield.

Echoing The Guardian report, some Ukrainian service members complained about the absence of fortifications and minefields in Kharkov Region, while local outlet Ukrainska Pravda reported that funds earmarked for creating defenses had simply been stolen. Ukrainian officials, however, have dismissed the narrative about the lack of defenses as “Russian propaganda” aimed at driving a wedge between local administrations and the top brass in Kiev.

On Friday, during his visit to China, Putin confirmed that Moscow’s combat operations in the region were aimed at creating a “cordon sanitaire,” stressing that his country had no plans to capture Kharkov, Ukraine’s second-largest city, at this point. (RT)