Ukrainian forces continue to push north into the Kharkiv region and advance south and east, a day after Russia abandoned its main stronghold in the area.
Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said the armed forces had regained control of more than 3,000 square kilometers since the beginning of the month.
“In the direction of Kharkov, we are starting to move not only to the south and east, but also to the north. There are 50 kilometers left to reach the state border (with Russia),” he said on Telegram.
President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the offensive as a potential breakthrough in a war that has already lasted six months, saying there could be further territorial gains in the winter if kyiv receives more powerful weapons.
In his daily speech on the 200th day of the conflict, Zelensky thanked the Ukrainian military for “liberating hundreds of our cities and/or towns (…) among them the most recent are Balakliïa, Izium and Kupiansk.”
Ukraine said it expelled Russian troops from several strategic points in the country’s east after Moscow announced a withdrawal from the Kharkov region to reinforce the Donetsk front further south.
Earlier this month, the Ukrainian army first announced a counteroffensive in the south of the country, before making a breakthrough this week in the north-east, in the Kharkov region.
Moscow’s near-total silence on the defeat – or any explanation for what happened in northeastern Ukraine – sparked anger among some Russian nationalist and pro-war commentators on social media. Some called on President Vladimir Putin to make immediate changes to ensure final victory in the war.
The achievements are politically significant for Zelensky, who is trying to keep Europe united behind Ukraine – by supplying weapons and money – at a time when a winter energy crisis looms, following cuts in Russian gas supplies to the European clients.
Zelenski affirmed that the Ukrainian forces will continue advancing. “We will not stand still,” he said in an interview with CNN taped in kyiv on Friday. “We will proceed slowly and gradually.”
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine must secure retaken territory in anticipation of a possible Russian counterattack on stretched Ukrainian supply lines. He told the Financial Times that the Ukrainian forces could be surrounded by new Russian troops if they advanced too far.
However, he assured that the offense was much better than expected, describing it as a “snowball rolling down the hill.” “It is a sign that Russia can be defeated,” he said.
The head of the Russian administration in Kharkiv called on residents to evacuate the province and flee to Russia, TASS reported on Saturday. Witnesses described traffic jams with people leaving Russian-controlled territory.
Washington appeared to take a cautious public stance, and the Pentagon referred Reuters to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s remarks on Thursday about kyiv’s “encouraging” successes on the battlefield.
The British Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that fighting continues around Izium and Kupiansk, the only railway hub supplying the Russian front line in northeastern Ukraine, which has been retaken by forces from kyiv.
Blackouts and cuts in water supply affected several areas of the Kharkov region on Sunday, regional governor Olegh Synehubov wrote on Telegram. He accused Russian forces of targeting civilian infrastructure.
Moscow denies that its forces are deliberately targeting civilians. The governor of the central Dnipropetrovsk region, Valentyn Reznichenko, said the Russian strikes also left several cities without power. “They are unable to accept defeats on the battlefield,” he wrote on Telegram.
nuclear reactor shutdown
As the war entered its 200th day, Ukraine shut down the last operating reactor at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant to protect itself from a potential catastrophe as fighting rages nearby.
Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of bombing the surroundings of the Zaporizhia plant, controlled by the Russians, with the risk of releasing radiation.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said a standby power line had been restored to the plant, providing it with the external electricity it needs to carry out the shutdown while fending off the risk of a meltdown.
The IAEA said a standby power line had been restored to the plant, providing the external electricity needed to carry out the shutdown while fending off the risk of a meltdown.
French President Emmanuel Macron told Putin in a phone call on Sunday that the occupation of the plant by Russian troops is the reason its security is compromised, the French presidency said. Putin blamed Ukrainian forces, according to a Kremlin statement.
Ukraine reported more Russian air and missile strikes overnight and regional officials reported heavy Russian shelling in the east and south.
Ukraine’s southern command said the military situation in the south is “dynamically evolving” as territories are recaptured there, while the mayor of the southern city of Mykolaiv said nine people were wounded in shelling.
With information from Reuters and AFP.