Zelensky announces new advances and accuses Moscow of retaliation on the power grid

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday evening that his army had retaken from the Russians the strategic town of Izium, in eastern Ukraine where kyiv accuses Moscow of having struck the electricity grid in retaliation for its military setbacks.

Ukraine claimed throughout the weekend new military successes against the Russian army in the eastern and southern parts of its territory, with Moscow acknowledging that it had lost ground.

Last success to date, Mr. Zelensky announced Sunday evening that the Ukrainian army had « liberated » the strategic city of Izium.

According to military experts, the loss of Izium by Moscow risks seriously curbing its military ambitions in eastern Ukraine.

In the evening, this area suffered extensive power cuts, attributed to “Russian terrorists” by Mr. Zelensky. « A total power outage in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, a partial one in the Zaporizhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy regions », but « no military installation » affected, the president wrote in a statement.

“The goal is to deprive people of light and heating,” he added.

Ukrainian local authorities have reported Russian strikes on their electrical infrastructure. Power was quickly restored to some of the affected areas.

In the Kharkiv region, « a company employee was killed » by a Russian strike on a power plant, and power was partially restored, according to regional governor Oleg Synegoubov.

According to Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko, the attacks are « an act of desperation after Russia’s immense losses and its retreat into eastern Ukraine ».

The Russian strikes, according to the Ukrainian general staff, hit 15 places on Sunday, from Kramatorsk in the east to Mykolaiv in the south, via Dnipro in the center-east.

Last night, the bombardment of Pokrovsk, a city in the Donetsk region, caused the death of six inhabitants and destroyed or damaged « multiple buildings », lamented its mayor Ruslan Trebouchkine.

Zaporizhia at a standstill

At the same time, the situation at the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Zaporijjia (south), where all the reactors have now been shut down, remained worrying.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of the « catastrophic consequences » that « regular Ukrainian attacks » could have on this complex of six reactors, « including the repository of radioactive waste », in a telephone interview with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron.

The latter retorted that « the Russian occupation » was « the cause of the risks » weighing on the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, and asked him to withdraw all the weapons, according to the French presidency.

The Ukrainian operator Energoatom has announced that it has shut down the last reactor still in operation before dawn, which produced the electricity needed to cool the nuclear fuel and to ensure the safety of the site. This decision was taken after the restoration, Saturday evening, of the power supply outside the plant.

“Russian troops flee”

In the northeast, the ongoing Ukrainian counter-offensive was resulting, on the 200th day of the conflict, in significant breakthroughs in the Russian lines.

“Since the beginning of September, more than 3000 km2 have returned to Ukrainian control,” proclaimed Valeri Zaloujny, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army, according to whom his troops are “50 kilometers from the Russian border”.

On June 2, President Zelensky acknowledged that 20% of the total area of ​​his country, or some 125,000 km2, was in Russian hands, of which more than 43,000 km2 (Crimea and part of the Donbass basin) were conquered before the outbreak of the invasion on February 24.

At the beginning of the month, the Ukrainian army first announced a counter-offensive in the south, before making a surprise and lightning advance in the Kharkiv region over the past week.

The map of this northeastern area, presented by the Russian Ministry of Defense during its daily briefing, showed a large withdrawal of Russian soldiers, who only controlled a small part of it on Sunday.

On Saturday, the Russian army admitted to having « withdrawn » its units present in the vicinity of Balakliïa and Izium in order to « regroup » them near Donetsk, one of the capitals of the pro-Russian separatists, further south.

“Liberated” cities

« As a result of the success of the counter-offensive of our troops in the Kharkiv region, the Russian troops quickly abandoned their positions and fled », in particular « towards Russia », commented the Ukrainian staff in the evening, before the announcement of the takeover of Izioum by Mr. Zelensky.

“A large part of the Chuguyiv, Kupyansk and Balaklya districts have been liberated. Today we can say that about forty localities have already been liberated, but there are many more […] added the governor of Kharkiv, Oleg Sinegoubov.

The day before, kyiv said its forces had entered Kupyansk, which is on supply routes for Russian troops.

In the south, in the Kherson region, « the occupiers have also withdrawn from their positions in several localities », the Ukrainian army also announced on Sunday.

According to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the Ukrainians recaptured in five days « more territory than the Russians have captured in all of their operations since April ».

In areas taken over by the Ukrainians, AFP journalists saw charred Russian trucks and armored vehicles on Saturday, some of which were still stamped with the letter Z, the symbol of the invasion of Ukraine.

Soldiers were patrolling in Balakliïa, where the Ukrainian colors floated. In the village of Grakové, which had just fallen back into the hands of the Ukrainians, the destruction – electric pylons knocked down, cables spread out on the ground – testified to the violence of the fighting.

Iryna Stepanenko, 52, took advantage of being able to go out on a bicycle for the first time after hiding in her basement for three months. “It was terrifying”, she said about this underground life in the din of the explosions. Relieved by the return of the Ukrainian soldiers, she nevertheless said she had fears for the future.

The head of Ukrainian diplomacy, Dmitro Kouleba, for his part called for the continuation of arms deliveries, mainly from the West.

« Only Ukraine determines the agenda for the peace negotiations », hammered in parallel an adviser to the Ukrainian presidency, Mikhaïlo Podoliak: this one « is known: 1. Liberation of all territories 2. Payment of reparations by the Russians 3. Punishment of war criminals,” he explained, concluding that “there are no other arrangements or pressures.”

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