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Russia announces withdrawal from Ukraine’s Kharkiv region after a surprise attack

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Saturday announced it would withdraw its troops from two regions in eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv, where Ukraine’s counter-offensive has made significant progress over the past week.

The news comes after days of clear Ukrainian progress south of Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, in what could become the biggest battlefield success for Ukrainian forces since they stopped blocked Russia’s attempt to capture the capital of Kyiv at the beginning of the almost seven-month war.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday that troops would be regrouped from the Balakliya and Izyum regions to Ukraine’s Donetsk tern region. Izyum is a major base for Russian forces in the Kharkiv region and earlier this week, videos on social media showed happy Balakliya residents cheering as Ukrainian troops entered.

Konashenkov said Russia’s move was being made “to achieve the stated objectives of the special military operation to liberate Donbas”, one of the regions of eastern Ukraine that Russia has claimed as its sovereignty. .

A Ukrainian Army tank advances towards fronts in the northeastern region of Kharkiv, Ukraine on September 8, 2022.

Metin Atkas | Anadolu Agency | beautiful pictures

The withdrawal statement to focus on Donetsk is similar to the justification that Russia made when it withdrew its forces from the Kyiv area earlier this year when it failed to capture the Ukrainian capital.

Ukrainian officials earlier on Saturday announced major gains in the counter-offensive against Russian forces in the Kharkiv region, saying the Ukrainian military had cut off vital supplies to Izyum.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko also said that the Ukrainian army had recaptured Kupiansk, a town along the main supply route to Izyum, which has long been the focal point of the Russian front and the site of battles. heavy artillery and other skirmishes. Nikolenko tweeted a photo showing soldiers standing in front of what he said was a government building in Kupiansk, 73 kilometers (45 miles) north of Izyum.

Ukraine’s Security Service of Ukraine several hours later posted a notice stating that its force was in Kupiansk, adding that it had been captured by the Ukrainian military. Ukrainian troops did not immediately confirm their entry into the town, a railway hub that Russia seized in February.

Videos on social media appeared to show Ukrainian forces on the outskirts of Izyum at a roadside checkpoint. A large statue with the name of the city can be seen in the footage. Ukrainian forces did not acknowledge the capture of the city.

Ukraine claims it has recaptured 400 square miles of territory from the Russian army

Earlier on Saturday, the British Ministry of Defense told reporters it believed the Ukrainians had advanced as far as 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Kharkiv, and described Russian forces around Izyum as “increasingly” isolated.”

The British military said: “Russian forces may have been taken by surprise.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank that also references the gains from Ukraine, estimates that Kyiv captured about 2,500 square kilometers (965 square miles) during the eastern foray. mine. The institute said it appeared “disorganized Russian forces (have) been caught up in the rapid Ukrainian advance.” They cite on social media clear images of pre-arrested Russian prisoners around Izyum and surrounding towns.

The same report said Ukrainian forces “could knock down Russian positions around Izyum if they cut off Russian ground communication lines” north and south of the town.

Vladislav Sokolov, head of the local government appointed by Russia, said on social media that authorities in Izyum have begun evacuating residents to Russia.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine comes amid an ongoing offensive around Kherson in the south. Analysts say Russia may have sent troops from the east to reinforce around Kherson, giving the Ukrainians an opportunity to attack a waning front line.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told Ukrainian TV channel that the Russians had no food or fuel for their troops in the area because Kyiv had cut off their supply lines.

“It will be like an avalanche,” he said, predicting a Russian defeat. “A line of defense will shake and it will collapse.”

Black smoke rises at the front line in Mykolaiv Oblast on August 30, 2022. Ukraine has begun a massive counter-offensive to retake Kherson city and the southern region of the same name. Kherson was the first Ukrainian city to fall to Russia after the invasion began in February.

Dimitar Dilkoff | Afp | beautiful pictures

Ukraine’s military is more cautious about reported profits, announcing on Saturday that it has taken “more than 1,000 square kilometers” (386 square miles) from pro-Kremlin forces this week. It said “in some areas Self-Defense Force units penetrated enemy defenses to a depth of 50 km”, in line with the British assessment but did not disclose geographical details.

Officials in Kyiv have for weeks been tight-lipped about their plans for a counter-offensive to retake territory captured by Russia at the beginning of the war, urging people to refrain from sharing information on social media.

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday that the Ukrainian army has recaptured more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region since the start of the counter-offensive.

“We are gradually taking control of more settlements, returning the Ukrainian flag and protection to our people,” Zelenskyy said.

He spoke after Ukraine’s governor Kharkiv reported that the national flag had been raised over Balakliya, a town recaptured by Ukrainian troops on Thursday after six months of Russian occupation.

“Balakliya is Ukraine! Today, together with the army, led by the Commander of the Ground Forces Oleksandr Syrskyy, we raised the flag of Ukraine,” governor Oleh Syniehubov wrote on Telegram.

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s emergency services announced that a 62-year-old woman was killed in a Russian missile attack in the Kharkiv region when her house was flattened overnight.

Syniehubov also accused Moscow of disturbing settlements recaptured by Kyiv. He said in a Telegram post that five civilians were hospitalized in the Izyum district, while nine others were injured elsewhere in the area.

In the crowded Donbas region south of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian governor said civilians were killed and wounded overnight by Russian shelling near the city of Bakhmut, a key target of Russia’s offensive there. Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram that two people had died and two others were injured in Bakhmut and the neighboring village of Yahidne.

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock arrived in Kyiv for an unannounced visit on Saturday, saying Europe would not tire of helping Ukraine despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to increased pressure by cutting energy supplies from European Union countries.

Baerbock said Germany would assist Ukraine in finding and removing mines and other unexploded ordnance left behind by Russian troops in areas repelled by Ukrainian forces.

Despite the achievements made by Ukraine’s armed forces, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the head of NATO warned on Friday that Ukraine’s war against Russia is likely to drag on for months. Blinken said the war was entering a critical phase and called on Ukraine’s Western supporters to continue their support during a difficult winter.

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