In the face of an unexpected advance by Ukrainian forces, Russia has directed its troops to leave two front-line positions in eastern Ukraine.
Saturday’s retreat was the biggest victory for Ukraine‘s military since defeating a Russian attempt at capturing the capital, Kyiv back in March.
As the Russian line crumbled, Ukrainian forces backed by more powerful Western weapons have seized hundreds of miles of territory in the Kharkiv region.
Social media images showed soldiers retaking the Russian flags and replacing them with the colours yellow and blue as Ukrainians regained control of their villages, towns, and cities after months of Russian occupation.
As he watched the flag-raising ceremony accompanied by the national song at Banakliia (a small Ukrainian city that was the first to be captured), a top commander from Ukraine said more cities would soon follow.
Colonel General Oleksandr Siskyi, in full combat gear, stated that “I am certain that this isn’t the last city.”
Kupiansk is ahead of us, and has been taken half by our troops. Izyium, and many other countries are also ahead of us.
Pictures of the Ukrainian flag flying above Kupiansk have been released. This was an important logistic hub for Russia that allowed it to supply its troops in the critical southeastern Donbas area.
Photos of the entrance of Izyium, the main bastion of Russian forces in the region, have been shared on social media. It was captured by Russia in the first weeks of war, and has remained under Russian rule ever since – up to now.
Igor Konashenkov, a defense ministry spokesperson, stated that the Russian troops would be moved from Balakliya or Izyum to the Donetsk area in the Donbas.
Konashenkov stated that the move was being made to “achieve the stated goals for the special military operation in liberating Donbas”.
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This claim of a pullback in order to focus on the Donbas is very similar to the reasons Russia used to withdraw its troops from the Kyiv Region and the north of Ukraine earlier in the year. They were met with fierce resistance from the Ukrainians, assisted by Western weapons.
These developments occurred amid what was largely a media blackout about Ukraine’s offensive plans.
According to the Ukrainian military, it launched a long-anticipated counteroffensive against Russian-controlled territory south of Kherson on 29 Aug.
Journalists have been unable to access the frontline because of it, making progress in that operation difficult to measure.
However, the UK Ministry of Defence stated that the date for the attack was 6 September. In fact, Ukrainian forces have been simultaneously attacking Russian-held positions within the Kharkiv region.
In the last three days, claims of major advances in Kharkiv started to emerge.
Vladislav Sokolov is the head of the Russian-appointed local government and stated on social media that authorities from Izyum had begun evacuating residents to Russia.
Oleksii Reznikov, the Ukrainian defense minister, stated to Ukraina television that Russia had run out of fuel and food for its troops in the region after Kyiv cut off their supply lines.
He said that it would be “like an avalanche”, predicting a Russian fallback. “One line defense will shake and it will fall.”
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President, stated in a Friday nightly video address that more than 30 settlements had been reclaimed by Ukrainian troops in Kharkiv since the beginning of the counter-offensive.
“We are slowly taking control of more settlements, returning to Ukraine the Ukrainian flag and protecting our people,” said Mr Zelenskyy.