Russia gives up key northeast towns as Ukrainian forces advance

KYIV / HRAKOVE: Moscow abandons its main fortress in the northeast Ukraine on Saturday, in the sudden collapse of one of the main front lines of the war after a rapid advance by Ukrainian forces.
The rapid fall of Izium in Kharkiv province was Moscow’s heaviest defeat since its troops were forced to retreat from the capital. Kyiv March. Ukraine hailed it as a turning point in a six-month war, with thousands of Russian troops leaving behind stockpiles of ammunition and equipment as they fled.
Russian forces used Izium as a logistics base for one of their main operations – a months-long assault from the north into the adjacent Donbas region that includes Donetsk and Luhansk.
State news agency TASS quoted RussiaThe Defense Ministry said it had ordered troops to leave the vicinity and intensify operations elsewhere in Donetsk.
The head of Russia’s administration in Kharkiv has ordered people to evacuate the province and run to Russia to “save lives”, TASS reported. Witnesses described traffic jams of cars with people leaving the territory held by Russia.
If the reported profits remain the same, it would be a serious blow to Russia, which Western intelligence agencies say has suffered massive casualties. This will also be a big boost for Ukraine, which wants to show that the Western nations that supply Ukraine with weapons they deserve continued support.
There is pressure on Kyiv to show progress before winter begins, amid threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin halt all energy shipments to Europe if Brussels continues to propose limiting the price of Russian oil exports.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in Kyiv that Ukrainian forces have demonstrated that they are capable of defeating the Russian army with the weapons given to them.
“And so I repeat: the more weapons we get, the faster we will win, and the faster this war will end,” he said.
In his nightly address on Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine’s armed forces had recovered about 2,000 square kilometers (770 square miles) of territory since the counteroffensive launched earlier this month.
“The Russian army is claiming the title of the fastest army in the world… keep running!” Andriy Yermak, Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, wrote on Twitter.

Ukrainian officials have stopped short of confirming they have recaptured Izium, but Yermak previously posted a photo of troops on its outskirts and tweeted an emoji about grapes. The name of the city means “raisins”.
The announcement of Russia’s withdrawal comes hours after Ukrainian troops captured the city of Kupiansk further north, the only railway hub supplying Russia’s entire front line through northeastern Ukraine. Ukrainian officials posted photos early Saturday of their troops raising the country’s blue and yellow flags in front of the Kupiansk town hall.
That caused thousands of Russian troops to suddenly have their supplies cut off along the front that saw some of the fiercest battles of the war.
Igor Girkin, a former commander of pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, called Russia’s withdrawal “a major failure” in comments on Telegram.
Mechanized attack
Ukraine has for weeks been talking about a major counter-offensive in the south, which is also underway, although details are sparse.
Russia still occupies vast territory in the Donbas and in the south near the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized in 2014.
A few days ago, Kyiv’s forces stormed the frontline in the northeast and have since retaken dozens of towns and villages in a rapidly mechanized assault, advancing tens of kilometers forward. (miles) per day.
Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Hanna Malyar, has sounded the alarm, urging people not to report early that towns have been “captured” just because Ukrainian troops were discovered. Soldiers entered Balakliia a few days ago, she said, but it took until Saturday for Ukraine to establish control over the city.
In Hrakove, one of dozens of villages recaptured during the Ukrainian advance, Reuters saw burned cars bearing the “Z” symbol of the Russian invasion. Ammunition boxes were scattered along with garbage at locations that the Russians had hastily discarded.
“Hello everyone, we are from Russia,” is spray-painted on the wall. Three bodies lay in white body bags in the yard.
The regional police chief, Volodymyr Tymoshenko, said Ukrainian police had moved the day before and checked the identities of local residents who had been living under Russian occupation since the second day of the invasion.
“The first function is to provide the help they need. The next is to document the atrocities committed by the Russian invaders in the territories they temporarily occupy,” he said.
‘Fighting getting closer’
A witness in Valuyki, a town in Russia’s Belgorod region near the border with Ukraine, told Reuters she had seen families from Kupiansk eating and sleeping in their cars along the roads.
“I was at the market today and saw a lot of people from Kupiansk. They said that half of the city has been taken by Ukrainian troops and Russia is retreating … fighting is coming,” the witness said.
Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said officials were delivering food and medical aid to people queuing at an airstrip into Russia. Senator Andrey Turchak, from the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, reported more than 400 vehicles at the border.
Ukrainian officials said the Russian missile launch hit the city of Kharkiv on Saturday night, killing at least one person and damaging several homes, part of an increased shelling since the uprising. Kyiv’s counterattack, Ukrainian officials said.
Reuters could not independently confirm the battlefield accounts.
Luhansk region governor Serhiy Gaidai told Ukrainian TV on Saturday: “The offensive is huge.

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