War in Ukraine: the spectacular counter-offensive of the Ukrainian army in the East “proves that Russia can not only be stopped but also beaten”

War in Ukraine: the spectacular counter-offensive of the Ukrainian army in the East "proves that Russia can not only be stopped but also beaten"

The Russian army on Saturday abandoned its main stronghold in northeastern Ukraine, Izium in the Kharkiv region, in the face of a counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces which “will stop where our interests stop”, said the secretary of the Ukrainian National Defense and Security Council.

Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky said in a video message late Saturday that Ukrainian forces had recaptured some 2,000 km2 of territory since the beginning of their counter-offensive.

“This is the first counter-offensive that we are leading. It proves that Russia can not only be stopped but also beaten,” said the head of Ukrainian diplomacy, Dmitri Kouleba, in the Journal du Dimanche.

“If we join our efforts, that the moral force and the sacrifices of the Ukrainians are combined with the weapons provided by the West, we can win”, he assures.

Russian troops present around Izium, an important logistics node, have been ordered to redeploy in the Donetsk region, the Russian Defense Ministry announced on Saturday.

The Ukrainian army has also regained control of Kupiansk, a rail hub essential to supplying the Russian forces deployed in the East.

“In order to achieve the stated objectives of the special military operation for the liberation of Donbass (in eastern Ukraine), it was decided to regroup the Russian forces stationed in the districts of Balakliia and Izium”, said General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense, quoted by the press agency.

A few hours later, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar announced in a press release the capture of Balakliia.

The reconquest of Izium is the most severe setback suffered by the Russian army since its aborted offensive against Kyiv in March.

Vitali Gantchev, head of the pro-Russian administration in the part of the Kharkiv region controlled by Moscow, called on civilians to evacuate and flee to Russia, in order to “save lives”, reports the Tass agency.

“Very clear and very rapid progress”

A Reuters journalist present in a large area taken over in recent days by the Ukrainian army could see Ukrainian police units patrolling several towns and boxes of ammunition abandoned by fleeing Russian soldiers.

Natalia Popova, adviser to the president of the Kharkiv regional council, shared photos on social networks showing troops hoisting the Ukrainian colors in front of the city hall of Kupyansk, the Russian flag spread out at their feet.

In this town located 72 hours ago some fifty kilometers from the front line converge railway lines connecting Russia to eastern Ukraine.

According to Western experts, its reconquest by the Ukrainian army could cut off important supply lines between Russia and the Donbass and weaken the entire Russian presence in the region, with thousands of soldiers at risk of finding themselves surrounded in the area of ‘Izioum, further south.

In Hrakove, one of the villages taken over by Kyiv, Reuters journalists saw charred vehicles bearing the letter “Z” used by Russian forces to identify themselves since the beginning of the invasion operation launched by Moscow on February 24 last. In a courtyard lay three bodies wrapped in white body bags.

Regional police chief Volodimir Tymoshenko said Ukrainian police, who arrived in the locality on Friday, were checking the identities of residents who had been living under Russian occupation since the second day of the invasion.

“The first mission is to provide the help they need. Then it is to gather information on the crimes committed by the Russian occupiers,” he said.

Russian reinforcements

After remaining silent in response to initial reports of a Ukrainian breakthrough in the Kharkiv region on Wednesday evening, Moscow finally acknowledged on Friday that its defenses had been broken down on part of the front line southeast of the second largest city in Ukraine.

Vitali Gantchev reported a “very clear and very rapid progression” of the opposing forces. “We are slowing down the enemy as much as possible, but several villages have already come under the control of the Ukrainian armed forces,” he admitted.

In his ritual evening televised address, Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky said that the Ukrainian army had liberated around 30 villages in a few days in the region, and that it was also continuing its counter-offensives in Donbass (east) and around Kherson (south).

“Our army, our intelligence units and our security services are carrying out active operations in several operational areas. They are doing it successfully,” he said.

After neglecting it to reinforce the southern front, Russia announced that it had sent reinforcements to the Kharkiv region and the Ministry of Defense released a video of military vehicles moving at high speed on a highway, without the we can say in which direction.

Ukraine’s military hadn’t made such a rapid advance since Russian troops gave up on taking Kyiv in March and retreated hastily towards the border.

“We see that the Ukrainians are achieving success in Kherson, we are now seeing it in Kharkiv, it’s very, very encouraging,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during a press conference in Prague.

“The (Ukrainian) armed forces will stop where our interests stop, and it will depend on a lot of circumstances,” Defense and National Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov told Voice of America.

The Russian army nevertheless continues to bombard Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, where ten people, including three children, were injured by rocket fire on Friday, according to the governor of Kharkiv oblast,

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