Ukraine’s rapid advances ‘creating fissures’ for Russian forces

Kyiv troops make major battlefield gains in northeastern Kharkiv region in recent days, driving deep into Russian lines.

Ukrainian servicemen
Ukrainian soldiers fire a US-made M777 howitzer from positions in the Kharkiv area [Sergey Kozlov/EPA-EFE]

Ukraine’s military has claimed lightning-quick gains in the east of the country after a surprise counteroffensive was launched this week to recapture territory from Russian forces.

The Ukrainian military said on Saturday it entered the town of Kupiansk in east Ukraine, a key supply hub held by invading Russian forces for several months. Kyiv also reported battlefield successes in the north and south of the country.

Ukrainian special forces published images on social media, which they said showed their officers purportedly in Kupiansk. The photos showed a handful of camouflage-clad soldiers carrying automatic weapons gathered around an armoured vehicle.

A regional official separately posted an image of Ukrainian troops in the eastern Ukrainian town of about 27,000 people and wrote “Kupiansk is Ukraine”.

Ukraine has made rapid gains in the northeastern Kharkiv region, driving deep into Russian lines. Kupiansk has been an important rail centre used by Russia since it took control after its February 24 invasion.

“In recent days, more than 1,000 square kilometres [386sq miles] of Ukrainian territory have been liberated from the occupiers,” said Oleksandr Shtupun, a spokesman from the Ukraine military.

“Units wedged themselves into the enemy’s defences to a depth of up to 50km [20 miles]. More than 30 settlements temporarily occupied by the Russian invaders in the Kharkiv region were liberated or taken under control.”

Ukrainian troops also advanced on Izyum, a town with a pre-war population of about 45,000, which has served as an important staging ground for Russian military operations.

“Ukrainian successes on the Kharkiv City-Izyum line are creating fissures within the Russian information space and eroding confidence in Russian command to a degree not seen since a failed Russian river crossing in mid-May,” said the US-based think-tank Institute for the Study of War.

Rapid movement

Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops along the southern front line are advancing as far as dozens of kilometres into territory captured by Russian forces at the beginning of the invasion in some areas, Nataliya Gumenyuk, a spokeswoman for the southern command of the Ukrainian army, told local media on Saturday.

Russia’s defence ministry posted a video of what it said were reinforcements being deployed to the Kharkiv region. It showed footage on Friday of Russian military vehicles driving along a highway in Kharkiv and released video of two helicopters flying overhead.

Ukraine’s advance in the Kharkiv region has been “very sharp and rapid” and Ukrainian forces have recaptured a number of settlements, the Russian-installed administrator of Russian-controlled parts of the region said.

“The enemy is being delayed as much as possible, but several settlements have already come under the control of Ukrainian armed formations,” said Vitaly Ganchev, head of the Russian-backed administration in the Kharkiv region.

Civilians were being evacuated from the towns of Izyum, Kupiansk and Veliky Burluk, Ganchev added.

‘Huge cost to Russia’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send reinforcements to Kharkiv underlined the significant losses Russia’s forces are taking.

“There are a huge number of Russian forces that are in Ukraine and unfortunately, tragically, horrifically President Putin has demonstrated that he will throw a lot of people into this at huge cost to Russia,” he said.

Residents in Grakovo village in Kharkiv faced a new reality after being freed by the Ukrainian army after almost seven months under Russian occupation.

On Friday, villager Serhiy Lutsai showed Ukraine police where the bodies of two civilians were after he was forced to bury them by separatist fighters in March.

“They threatened me with weapons and brought me here … There were two people already dead – two young guys,” said Lutsai.

Serhiy Bolvinov, head of police investigation in the Kharkiv region, commented on the bodies in the grave.

“People had gunshot wounds to the back of the head and their ears were cut off. He [Lutsai] and another resident buried these people.”

Britain’s defence ministry said fighting in the eastern Donbas region was also not going well for Moscow’s troops.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies