Russian Troops Pull Back and Ukraine Recaptures Key Cities in Biggest Advance in Months

  • Hugo Bachega en Kyiv y Matt Murphy en Londres.
  • BBC News

1 hour

image source, EPA

Caption,

A Ukrainian soldier next to a captured Russian vehicle.

Russian troops have begun withdrawing from key cities in eastern Ukraine, while swift counterattacks by Ukrainian forces have made new gains on the ground.

The Ukrainian authorities indicated that their troops entered Kúpiansk this Saturday, a vital supply center for Russia in the east of the country.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Minister confirmed that the military has withdrawn from the nearby city of Izium “in order to regroup.”

The minister also confirmed the withdrawal of Russian troops from a third key city, Balaklia, with the aim of “redoubling efforts” on the Donetsk front.

If sustained over time, the advances of the Ukrainian forces would be the most significant since Russia withdrew from the Kyiv region last April.

The city of Izyum has been a critical supply node for the Russians and has been the scene of heavy fighting in the early stages of the invasion.

“There was a three-day operation of organized withdrawal and transfer of the group of troops from Izium-Balaklia to the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic,” the Russian government said in a statement.

“In order to prevent damage to the Russian troops, a powerful fire defeat was inflicted on the enemy.”

Shortly after, the chief administrator of the Russian-controlled sectors in the Kharkiv region recommended its residents to evacuate to Russia “to save lives”, according to the Russian state news agency TASS.

And the governor of the neighboring region of Belgorod, in Russian territory, indicated that assistance will be provided to people who line up to cross the border, with provision of food, shelter and medical support.

The advances seem a clear sign that the Ukrainian army is capable of regaining control of territories occupied by Russia, while the country continues its request for military support from Western countries.

For Russia, Ukraine’s gains, if sustained, could spell a humiliating setback, given that its troops invaded the area during the first week of the war.

A Ukrainian tank advancing towards reclaimed areas

image source, Getty Images

Caption,

Ukrainian forces have made significant progress in the east of the country.

Earlier, UK defense officials noted that Ukraine had advanced some 50km into territory under Russian control.

Russian forces were probably taken by surprise“said the UK Ministry of Defense.

“The sector was weakly controlled and Ukrainian units have taken or surrounded several towns.”

Counteroffensive

Ukraine launched its counteroffensive in the east earlier this week as international attention focused on an anticipated advance near the southern city of Kherson.

Analysts have pointed out that Russia may be redirecting some of its most experienced forces to defend the city.

But in addition to gaining ground in the east, Ukraine is making progress in the south, according to a government official.

But Russian forces fighting on the southern front have dug in in defensive positions, after Ukrainian troops have faced heavy resistance since the beginning of the offensive.

ukrainian soldier

image source, Getty Images

Caption,

A Ukrainian soldier in one of the recovered areas.

Ukrainian officials shared an image on social media in which the country’s troops appear to be holding up the national flag in front of the government building in the city of Kupiansk, with a Russian flag at their feet.

“We are moving forward,” Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander Valeriy Zaluzhnyi wrote on his Facebook account.

“Clearly we know what we’re fighting for and we’re definitely going to win.”

From Kyiv, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said his forces are “gradually taking control of new settlements” and “returning the Ukrainian flag and protection to all our people.”

Likewise, images on social networks seemed to show the arrival of Russian forces by plane to defend Izium, after Balakliya fell to the advancing Ukraine.

During a visit to Brussels this Friday, the United States Secretary of State, Antony Blinksaid the counterattack was “showing real progress.”

“I think we can say that Ukraine is proceeding with a strong plan and enabled by the resources that many of us are providing,” Blinken said.

Zelensky also said during his speech that national police units have returned to areas recaptured by his forces and urged civilians to report suspected Russian war crimes.

President gives you the medal to the mèrito.

image source, REUTERS

Caption,

Ukraine’s president awarded the Order of Merit to Haluk Bayraktar on Friday.

His call followed a report by the UN monitoring team in Ukraine that they had “documented a variety of violations against prisoners of war” by Moscow forces.

The report also accuses Ukrainian troops of “cases of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners of war.”

This Friday, the Ukrainian president awarded the Order of Merit, Ukraine’s highest honor, to Haluk Bayraktar, head of Turkish drone manufacturer Bayraktar.

The company’s TB2 combat drone, which can carry four missiles, has become a symbol of the Ukrainian resistance.

While Ankara has tried to play an intermediary role between Kyiv and Moscow since the conflict broke out, Bayraktar refused to supply Russia with weapons, telling CNN in August: “We support Ukraine, we support its sovereignty, its resistance for its independence”.

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