After launching its biggest counteroffensive in southeastern Ukraine since the outbreak of the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian military made significant gains in the northeastern region of Kharkiv this weekend.
In an intelligence briefing on Sunday, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence described “significant gains” made by the Ukrainian military this weekend, forcing Russian troops to withdraw entire units from the area.
The gains were also confirmed by Ukrainian military chief Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, who wrote on Telegram on Sunday that Ukraine has gained more than 3,000 square kilometers of territory from Russian invaders since September.
“In the direction of Harkia, we began to move not only to the south and east, but also to the north. It’s 50 km to the outer edge of the country border,” the post reads. “On these lights are the results of several units of the Armed Forces. In a close relationship, they freed the villages of Bajrak, Nova Gusarica, and Buzzawa.”
The Ukrainian military official also revealed how “powerful supporters” of the Russian military had been captured and that he was “proud and grateful to every Ukrainian soldier.”
With Ukrainian forces now only 50km away from the Russian border, the Russian military is at real risk of being pushed out of Ukrainian territory.
Ukrainian forces reportedly entered the city of Izyum on Saturday, with fighting continuing in that area through Sunday. The city is crucial for the Russian military as it forms part of the military’s supply line to forces stationed in the Donbas.
Ukraine’s counteroffensive is no longer a localized push in the southeast, but an offensive across almost the entirety of eastern Ukraine that could see more towns and villages across the northeast liberated within a matter of days or weeks.
On Saturday, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that it would begin withdrawing its troops in two parts of the Kharkiv region, setting the scene for yet more retreats on Sunday.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that troops would be taken from the Izyum and Balakliya regions and redeployed to the Donetsk region. Izyum had previously been an important base for the Russian forces in Kharkiv, making the withdrawal a significant achievement for the Ukrainian.
Here’s the full statement from Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov on the decision to “regroup” troops from Balakliya and Izyum pic.twitter.com/P8BHn7VHOR
— Francis Scarr (@francis_scarr) September 10, 2022
Konashenkov spun the withdrawal as an effort to reinforce Russia’s “stated goals” of “liberating” Donbas.
The retreats have been described by some analysts as the worst defeat for the Russian forces since they were forced to withdraw from Kyiv in March, only weeks into the invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy used his Saturday night address to celebrate the gains and mock the Russian military.
“The Russian army in these days is demonstrating the best that it can do – showing its back,” Zelenskyy said.
The Ukrainian president also shared a video on social media on Sunday showing Ukrainian soldiers raising their flag over Chkalovsk, one of the towns recently liberated from the Russians as part of the counteroffensive.
Russia Responds With Vicious Attack On Civilian Infrastructure
Following Ukraine’s advance, the Russians didn’t simply retreat. On Sunday, Russia attacked civilian infrastructure and power stations in the Kharkiv region to hurt the Ukrainian military’s momentum.
A bombardment of rocket strikes took out a power station in western Kharkiv, leaving the city of Kharkiv completely without power on Sunday night. Russian Telegram channels also claimed on Sunday that a second power station, in Kremenchuk, had also been hit by rockets. Supporters of the Russian invasion of Ukraine appeared to be delighted by the news, with social media users posting laughing face emojis along with photographs of the strikes.
The strike also left the Kharkiv Metro without power, forcing passengers to walk along the tracks in the dark to the next station.
— Oleksandra Matviichuk (@avalaina) September 11, 2022
Yurii Ihnat, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, revealed that the Russians achieved the strikes with long-range missiles.
“Russian aircraft have been active: Tu-22 M3 long-range bombers, which first struck from the north of the country, apparently with X-22 missiles, then flew to the area of the occupied peninsula and reportedly attacked the southern regions of our country from the area of Cape Tarkhankut,” Ihnat said.
“We remind everyone once again that the threat [of missile strikes] has not gone away. The fact that our soldiers are liberating the land is good news, but it is far from victory. The enemy will keep on terrorizing us with missile attacks.”
The Ukrainian official also said that while the Ukrainian military does not yet have the means to take down the aircraft, he remains “convinced” that they will.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.