- Ukraine has recaptured dozens of cities in a rush
- Many fleeing Russian troops left Ukraine – US officials
- Selenskyj demands anti-aircraft systems from the West
BALAKLIIA, Ukraine, September 13 (Reuters) – Ukraine vowed on Tuesday to liberate all of its territory after pushing back Russian forces in the country’s northeast and hoisting flags over battle-hardened towns, urging the West to cut supplies from weapons to the back to accelerate the dramatic progress.
Since Moscow abandoned its main bastion in north-eastern Ukraine on Saturday, marking its worst defeat since the start of the war, Ukrainian troops have recaptured dozens of cities in a startling shift in battlefield dynamics.
Speaking in Balakliia, a key military supply center captured by Ukrainian forces late last week, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said 150,000 people in the region had been liberated from Russian rule. She spoke in the central square where Ukrainian flags had been raised.
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Fighting was still raging elsewhere in the northeastern Kharkiv region, she previously told Reuters, saying Ukrainian forces are making good progress because they are highly motivated and their operation well planned.
“The goal is the liberation of Kharkiv region and beyond – all areas occupied by the Russian Federation,” she said on the road to Balakliia, which is 74 km (46 miles) southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
In a village northwest of Balakliia, resident Tetiana Sinovoz brought tears to her eyes as she recounted how Ukrainian troops freed her from seven months of occupation.
“We thought there was no more village, but we came out and the village was whole!” She said prior to what she said the only building to have been destroyed in what appeared to be a brutal battle was the school, which the Russians had occupied.
Trees on the road to the village and a cement factory showed signs of battle, and there were abandoned Russian vehicles, including a military truck with a smashed windshield.
In a video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the West must accelerate deliveries of weapons systems and urged Ukraine’s allies to “intensify cooperation to defeat Russian terror.”
His foreign ministry singled out Germany, saying in unusually blunt language that it was disappointing that Berlin had not provided Leopard tanks and Marder infantry fighting vehicles.
On Monday, Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht “unilaterally” rejected the deployment of tanks. Some saw in the statements the possibility that Berlin could do this as part of a pan-European consortium.
The German Foreign Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since Russia’s February 24 invasion, Washington and its allies have provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in arms, which Kyiv says has helped limit Moscow’s gains. Russian forces control around a fifth of the country in the south and east. Ukraine is now on the offensive in both areas.
Malyar said the Ukrainian armed forces are consolidating their gains by looking for sabotage groups. The military said Russian forces shelled parts of the Kharkiv region retaken from Ukraine and attacked farther south in the Donetsk region, which Moscow is trying to seize for separatist proxies.
Ukraine repelled the attacks on the Donetsk region, its general staff report said, while Denis Pushilin, head of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, said its armed forces were repelling Ukrainian attacks and he believed the situation was improving.
Reuters could not immediately verify the battlefield reports.
A senior US military official earlier said Russia had largely ceded territory near Kharkiv in the northeast and withdrew many of its troops across the border. Continue reading
A video released by Ukraine’s Border Guard Service showed Ukrainian troops liberating the town of Vovchansk, near the country’s border with Russia, burning flags and tearing down a placard reading “We are one with Russia.”
THE NEXT LUHANSK?
A Moscow-based diplomat said progress in the Kharkiv region was encouraging but expressed caution about next steps.
“We shouldn’t rush things,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity. Key issues are whether Ukrainian forces could advance near Kharkiv into the Luhansk region and the impact on Russian morale in the south, where Ukraine’s advance has been slow so far, the diplomat said.
Serhiy Gaidai, Ukrainian governor of the Luhansk region that has captured Moscow, said he expects a major Ukrainian offensive there.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday Ukraine’s armed forces had made “significant progress” with Western support to ensure they had the equipment they needed. Continue reading
Zelenskyy said Ukraine had reclaimed about 6,000 square kilometers (2,400 sq mi) of territory, double the amount reported on Sunday. A portion of Ukraine’s landmass of around 600,000 square kilometers, roughly equals the combined area of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
ANOTHER EX-SOVIET CONFLICT
Fighting broke out between two other former Soviet republics on Monday, fueling fears of another conflict. Azerbaijan, which is backed by Turkey, and Armenia, an ally of Russia, blamed each other for the border disputes, with both reporting casualties.
It was not clear if there was a connection between the fighting and the conflict in Ukraine. The Kremlin said Putin was trying to end the clashes and stressed his influence in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, which dates back to the 1990s.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also said there was no discussion of a nationwide mobilization in Russia to strengthen the operation in Ukraine, which he said would continue until it achieved its goals.
Criticism of Russia’s leadership by nationalist online commentators calling for mobilization is an example of “pluralism,” Peskov told reporters, adding that Russians overall remain supportive of Putin.
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Additional coverage by Pavel Polityuk, Olzhas Auyezov, Aleksandar Vasovic, Miranda Murray and other Reuters reporters; writing from Philippa Fletcher; Edited by Frank Jack Daniel
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