Ukrainian forces have continued to press their counterattack in Kharkiv, seeking to take control of almost the entire province, as Russia launched dozens of air and missile strikes on power plants and elsewhere. in apparent retaliation for Kyiv’s success.
Ukrainian troops headed north, allegedly retaking towns all the way to the Russian border, and a video of a Ukrainian soldier circulated. in the center of the strategic city of Izium as the week-long counteroffensive continues in the northeast of the country.
Late on Monday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces had recaptured 6,000 square kilometers (2,320 square miles) since the counteroffensive began in early September.
“Since the beginning of September, our soldiers have already liberated 6,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory in the east and south, and we are making further progress,” Zelensky said in his daily address.
Kharkiv region governor Oleh Syniehubov said that “the enemy is quickly abandoning their positions and fleeing deep into the previously occupied territories” and that “in some areas of the front, our defenders reached the state border.”
Russia responded by launching missile strikes that cut power and water supplies in the city of Kharkiv for the second time in less than 24 hours, rendering both ineffective Monday morning, just hours after city authorities restored 80% of public services that had been cut overnight.
Ukraine also said that Russia had engaged in 18 missiles and 39 air strikes overnight. At least four civilians were killed and 11 others wounded in Russian strikes in nine regions, the presidential office in Kyiv added.
A Ukrainian parliamentarian, Inna Sovsun, said on Monday that war crimes investigators had found four “corpses with signs of torture” in a newly liberated village in the Kharkiv region. Other civilian bodies were being recovered after Russian troops left the area, she added.
An Izium official said at least 1,000 residents had been killed as a result of six months of fighting, but warned the true figure could be much higher. Maksym Strelnikov, a city councilor, said that the city’s medical facilities and 80% of its infrastructure had been destroyed, adding: “Izium suffered a lot due to Russian aggression.”
The Kremlin said on Monday that Russia would achieve all of its goals in Ukraine. In his first public response to Ukraine’s advances in the Kharkiv region, which began less than a week ago, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that “the military operation continues” and “will continue until the goals that were originally set. accomplished”.
Vladimir Putin was later shown on state television chairing a meeting on the economy in which he made no reference to the military situation and said Russia was resisting Western sanctions. “The blitzkrieg economic tactics, the onslaught they were counting on, did not work,” the Russian president said.
Reacting to the missile strikes, his defiant Ukrainian counterpart said attacks on the country’s power grid, particularly feared in the run-up to winter, would not intimidate people.
“Do you still think you can intimidate us, break us, force us to make concessions?” Zelensky said. “Cold, hunger, darkness and thirst for us are not as terrifying and deadly as your friendship and brotherhood. We will be with gas, electricity, water and food and without you”.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Monday morning that it believed Russia was likely to have ordered its troops to withdraw “from the whole of occupied Kharkiv Oblast west of the Oskil River,” a withdrawal apparently shown. on maps released by the Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday.
Pockets of Russian resistance remain, but the UK ministry said: “Since Wednesday, Ukraine has recaptured a territory at least twice the size of Greater London” in successes likely to have “significant implications for Russia’s overall operational design.” “.
Ukraine has recaptured more than 3,000 square kilometers (1,160 square miles) of territory since last Tuesday, expelling Russian forces from territory west of the Oskil River that it had planned to permanently occupy from Izium to the border.
Social media videos showed tanks and other armored vehicles abandoned in the Russian retreat. Ukrainian military intelligence said the escaping soldiers had engaged in “mass looting, loading generators, phones and computers taken from Ukrainians into their cars.” Some schools were raided and sports equipment stolen from gyms, the GUR said.
Russian military bloggers said the Kremlin’s goal was to establish a new front line along the Oskil, although it was unclear if this could be achieved or if Ukraine could advance into Lugansk province, which the Russians control almost entirely from July.
Ukrainian Lugansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said Russian troops had fled from Svatovo, some 30 miles east of Oskil, which was captured over the weekend, and the first major town of Kupiansk recently recaptured. Only Lugansk separatist troops remained, he said on Monday.
Ukraine’s goal was to seize Izium, which Zelenskiy confirmed had been captured on Sunday night. Izium, which is a gateway to the Donbas cities still held by Ukraine, was lost in heavy fighting in March.
“Ukrainian forces have inflicted a major operational defeat on Russia, recapturing almost the entire Kharkiv oblast in a swift counteroffensive,” the Institute for War Studies, a US think tank, said.
The GUR claimed that the general in command of Russia’s western army group has been sacked following the pullout in the Kharkiv region. He reported that General Roman Berdnikov had been replaced after less than three weeks in his post, but there was no confirmation from Russia.