Ukrainian officials claim gains in counteroffensive against Russian forces


Ukrainian officials on Saturday claimed major gains in a counteroffensive against Russian forces in the northeast of the country, saying Ukrainian troops had cut off vital supplies at a frontline hotspot.

The reports followed days of apparent advances south of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, in what could become Ukrainian forces’ biggest battlefield success since they thwarted an attempt Russian to seize the capital of Kyiv at the beginning of almost seven years. month of war.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko suggested that Ukrainian troops had recaptured Kupiansk, a town along the main supply route to Izyum, long concentrated on the Russian front line and site heavy artillery and other combat.

Nikolenko tweeted a photo showing soldiers from Ukraine’s 92nd Separate Mechanized Battalion outside what he said was a government building in Kupyansk, 73 kilometers north of Izyum.

A Ukrainian soldier stands atop a tank in Kharkiv on Friday. (Juan Barreto/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine’s Security Service, known as the SBU, released a message hours later which it said showed its forces in Kupiansk, further suggesting it had been seized by Ukrainian troops. The Ukrainian army did not immediately confirm its entry into the city, a rail hub that Russia seized in February when its mayor surrendered to avoid civilian casualties.

Later Saturday, social media videos began circulating also appearing to show Ukrainian forces on the rural outskirts of Izyum at a road checkpoint. A large statue bearing the city’s name could be seen in the footage. Ukrainian forces have not acknowledged holding the town.

Russian forces in Izyum region ‘increasingly isolated’

Earlier on Saturday, Britain’s Ministry of Defense told reporters it believed the Ukrainians had advanced up to 50 kilometers south of Kharkiv, and described Russian forces around Izyum as « increasingly isolated « .

« Russian forces were probably taken by surprise. The sector was only lightly held and Ukrainian units captured or surrounded several towns, » the British army said, adding that the loss of Kupiansk would significantly affect defense lines. Russian supplies in the region.

Ukrainian soldiers sit atop an armored military vehicle as they drive into Bucha on Thursday. (Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press)

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, also referred to sizable Ukrainian gains on Saturday, estimating that Kyiv grabbed around 2,500 square kilometers in its push into the north. -is.

The institute said it appeared that « disorganized Russian forces [were] caught up in Ukraine’s rapid advance. They cited images on social media of apparent Russian prisoners seized during the advance around Izyum and surrounding towns.

The same report said Ukrainian forces “could collapse Russian positions around Izyum if they cut Russian land lines of communication” north and south of the city.

Moscow did not immediately acknowledge or comment on the claims made by Ukraine and its Western allies. However, Vladislav Sokolov, the head of the Russian-appointed local administration, said on social media that authorities in Izyum had started evacuating residents to Russia.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine comes amid an ongoing offensive around Kherson in the south. Analysts suggest that Russia may have taken soldiers from the east to reinforce around Kherson, giving the Ukrainians an opportunity to strike at a weakened front line.

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

« It will be like an avalanche, » he said, predicting a Russian retreat. « A line of defense will shake and fall. »

Ukraine’s military has been more circumspect about reported gains, saying in its regular Saturday update that it took « more than 1,000 square kilometres » from pro-Kremlin forces this week. He said « in some areas Defense Force units penetrated enemy defenses to a depth of 50 kilometres », matching the British assessment, but did not divulge any geographical details.

Zelenskyy points to recovered colonies

Kyiv officials have been tight-lipped for weeks over their counteroffensive plans to retake territory invaded by Russia at the start of the war, calling on local residents to refrain from sharing information on social media for fear of jeopardize the current operation.

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an overnight video address on Friday that Ukrainian troops had recaptured more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region since the counteroffensive began.

Damaged residential buildings in Mariupol, Ukraine, are seen in a photo taken on Thursday. (AFP/Getty Images)

« We are gradually taking control of more settlements, returning the Ukrainian flag and protecting our people, » Zelenskyy said.

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

“Balakliia is Ukraine! Today, together with the army, led by the commander of the ground forces Oleksandr Syrskyy, we raised the Ukrainian flag,” Governor Oleh Syniehubov wrote on Telegram.

Elsewhere, Ukrainian emergency services reported that a 62-year-old woman had been killed in a Russian missile strike in the Kharkiv region overnight. He said his body was found buried in the rubble of his house, which was flattened by the strike.

Syniehubov, the regional governor, also accused Moscow of destroying settlements taken over by Kyiv during its recent advances, as well as other residential areas in the region. He said in a Telegram post that five civilians were hospitalized in Izyum district, while nine others were injured elsewhere in the region.

In the besieged Donbass region south of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s governor says civilians were killed and injured overnight by Russian shelling near the town of Bakhmut, a key target of the blocked Russian offensive in that area . Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram that two people died and two others were injured in Bakhmut and the nearby village of Yahidne.


Back to top button