Ukrainian forces threaten Russian supply lines after breakthrough

KYIV: Fast-advancing Ukrainian troops approached the main railway supplying Russian forces in the east on Friday, after the collapse of part of Russia’s frontline caused the most dramatic change in the dynamics of the war since the first weeks.
In a video speech, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the army had “liberated dozens of settlements” and regained more than 1,000 square kilometers (385 square miles) of territory in Kharkiv region to the east and Kherson to the south over the past week.
Zelenskiy posted a video in which Ukrainian soldiers said they had captured the eastern town of Balakliia, located along a front stretching south of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
The Ukrainian military said it had advanced nearly 50 kilometers across that front after an attack that appeared to take the Russians by surprise.
It was the first blitzkrieg of its kind reported by both sides in months, in a war largely characterized by relentless front-line battles since Russia abandoned the offensive. catastrophically into the capital Kyiv in March.
Nearly 24 hours after Ukraine announced a breakthrough on the Kharkiv front, Russia has yet to comment publicly. The Kremlin declined to comment on Friday and referred questions to the Russian military.
Ukraine has not allowed independent journalists into the area to confirm the extent of their progress. However, Ukrainian news websites showed pictures of troops cheering from armored vehicles as they sped past street signs bearing the names of towns formerly administered by Russia, and forces Russian forces surrender by the roadside.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a news conference with his Czech counterpart in Prague: “We see success in Kherson now, we see some success in Kharkiv and that’s very, very important. very encouraging”.
The Institute for the Study of War says Ukraine is now just 15 kilometers from Kupiansk, an essential junction for the main railway lines that Moscow has long relied on to supply forces to the battlefields in the east.
Since Russian forces were defeated near Kyiv in March, Moscow has used its fire advantage to make slow advances by shelling towns and villages. But that tactic relies on tons of ammunition each day arriving at the front lines by train from western Russia. So far, Russia has successfully thwarted Ukraine’s attempt to cut off that railroad.
Ukraine’s General Staff said early on Friday Russian retreating forces were trying to evacuate wounded people and damaged military equipment near Kharkiv.
“Thanks to coordinated and skillful actions, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, with the support of the local population, advanced nearly 50 kilometers in three days.”
Tens of thousands of people have been killed, millions displaced and Russian forces have destroyed entire cities since Moscow launched a “special military operation” in February to “disarm”. “Ukraine. Russia denies intentionally targeting civilians.
In the latest reported attack on civilians, Ukrainian officials say Russia attacked a hospital near the international border in the northeastern region of Sumy on Friday morning. Reuters could not independently confirm the report.
“Russian aviation, not crossing the border of Ukraine, fired on a hospital. The facility was destroyed, there were injured people,” regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyi said on Telegram.
Ukraine’s sudden breakthrough in the east comes a week after Kyiv announced the start of a long-awaited counterattack hundreds of kilometers away at the other end of the front line, in Kherson province to the south.
Ukrainian officials say Russia has moved thousands of troops south in response to the Kherson advance, exposing other parts of the front line and opening the door for a flash offensive to the east. .
“We have found a weak spot for which the enemy is not ready,” said presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych.
So far, little is known about the campaign in the south, with Ukraine keeping journalists private and disclosing some details.
Ukraine has been using new Western-supplied artillery and rockets to attack Russian rear positions there, with the aim of trapping thousands of Russian troops on the west bank of the vast Dnipro River and cutting off its supplies. surname.
Arestovych concedes that the advance in the south has not been as rapid as the unexpected breakthrough in the east.
Russia’s state news agency RIA quoted Russian-appointed Kherson authorities as saying that several Ukrainian troops were captured in the counterattack and that some Polish tanks they were using were destroyed. Reuters could not verify those reports.
The United Nations accuses Moscow of denying access to thousands of prisoners of war, with the head of the UN human rights monitoring group in Ukraine, Matilda Bogner, describing cases of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners. detained by Russian forces and their confidants.
UN monitors have also documented cases of torture and ill-treatment by Ukraine of prisoners of war, which has allowed them unimpeded access, she said. Ukraine said it would investigate any violations and take appropriate legal action.
Moscow denies mistreating prisoners. Dozens of Ukrainian soldiers died in a violent explosion while being held by pro-Russian authorities in July in what Kyiv called a massacre. Moscow blamed the shelling of Ukraine.
According to the regional prosecutor’s office to the north of the battlefield, Russian missiles hit several areas in Kharkiv on Thursday, causing widespread damage and casualties, according to the regional prosecutor’s office.
“We’re scared… You can’t get used to it, never,” resident Olena Rudenko told Reuters.

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