Ukraine pushes to take back all land from Russia and asks for Western weapons

  • Ukraine has recaptured dozens of cities in a rapid advance
  • Many fleeing Russian troops have left Ukraine: US official
  • Zelenskiy asks for anti-aircraft systems from the West

ON THE ROAD TO BALAKLIIA, Ukraine, Sept 13 (Reuters) – Ukraine said on Tuesday it aimed to liberate all of its territory after pushing back Russian forces in the country’s northeast in a swift offensive, but called on the West to speed up deliveries of weapons systems to support the advance.

Since Moscow abandoned its main stronghold in northeastern Ukraine on Saturday, marking its worst defeat since the first days of the war, Ukrainian troops have recaptured dozens of cities in a stunning reversal of battlefield momentum.

Fighting was continuing in the northeastern Kharkiv region, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar told Reuters on Tuesday, saying Ukraine’s forces were making good progress because they are highly motivated and their operation is well planned.

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“The goal is to liberate the Kharkiv region and beyond, all the territories occupied by the Russian Federation,” he said on the way to Balakliia, a crucial military supply center recaptured by Ukrainian forces late last week that is to 74 km (46 miles). southeast of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine.

In a video address Monday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the West must speed up deliveries of weapons systems, calling on Ukraine’s allies to “strengthen cooperation to defeat Russian terrorism.”

Since Russia’s invasion on February 24, Washington and its allies have provided Ukraine with billions of dollars worth of weapons that Kyiv says have helped limit Moscow’s gains. Russian forces control about a fifth of the country in the south and east, but Ukraine is now on the offensive in both areas.

The Ukrainian military reported no further progress on Tuesday, saying Russian forces were shelling parts of Ukraine’s retaken Kharkiv region and attacking further south in the Donetsk region, which Moscow is trying to exploit for separatist proxies.

Ukraine had repelled attacks in the Donetsk region, according to its general report, while Denis Pushilin, leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, said his forces were repelling Ukrainian attacks and he believed the situation would improve.

Serhiy Gaidai, the Ukrainian governor of the neighboring Luhansk region, which Moscow has seized, said a major Ukrainian offensive is expected there on Tuesday.

Reuters could not immediately verify reports from the battlefield.

A senior US military official earlier said that Russia had largely ceded territory near Kharkiv in the northeast and had withdrawn many of its troops across the border. read more

A video released by Ukraine’s border guard service showed what it said were Ukrainian troops liberating the town of Vovchansk near the country’s border with Russia, burning flags and toppling a banner reading “We are one with Russia.”

CAUTION

A Moscow-based diplomat said progress in the Kharkiv region was encouraging but expressed caution about next steps.

“We must not get ahead of ourselves,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity, adding that a key question was whether Ukrainian forces would be able to enter the Luhansk region.

“So it’s a significant moment, but it’s not the beginning of the end yet,” the diplomat said, noting the importance of a possible shock to Russian morale in the south around Kherson, where Ukraine’s advance had so far been slow. .

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that Ukrainian forces had made “significant progress” with support from the West in ensuring they have the equipment they need.

Washington announced its latest weapons program for Ukraine last week, including munitions for HIMARS anti-rocket systems, and previously sent Ukraine NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems, which are capable of shooting down planes. read more

Zelenskiy said Ukraine had recovered about 6,000 square kilometers (2,400 square miles) of territory, twice as much as authorities had cited on Sunday. A portion of Ukraine’s land mass of about 600,000 square kilometers, is roughly equivalent to the combined area of ​​the West Bank and Gaza.

After being pushed out of the capital Kyiv shortly after its invasion, Russia refocused on capturing territory adjacent to Crimea in the south, which it annexed in 2014, and on Donetsk and Luhansk in the industrial Donbas in eastern Ukraine. , which the separatists claimed the same year.

Zelenskiy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak explained why Ukraine needed more weapons, saying that it needed air defense to protect its civilians and critical infrastructure in the first place.

“Secondly, the liberation of Luhansk/Donetsk will cause a domino effect, will collapse the front line and lead to political destabilization. It is possible. Weapons are required,” he wrote on Twitter.

Russia denies targeting civilians and says what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine is designed to degrade its neighbor’s armed forces.

‘HANGING BY A THREAD’

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was no talk of a national mobilization to strengthen the operation in Ukraine.

Criticism of Russia’s leadership by nationalist commentators online who called for mobilization was an example of “pluralism,” Peskov told reporters, adding that Russians as a whole continue to support President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin said on Monday the military operation would continue until its goals were achieved, but dodged a question about whether Putin still had confidence in his military leadership.

Ukrainian officials say Russia has responded to successes on the Kyiv battlefield by bombing power plants and other key infrastructure, causing blackouts in Kharkiv and elsewhere. Russia has blamed Ukraine for the blackouts.

The bombing around the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has raised serious concerns about the risk of a radioactive catastrophe. The UN atomic watchdog has proposed creating a protection zone around the nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, and both sides are interested, the IAEA chief said.

“We are playing with fire,” Rafael Grossi told reporters. “We cannot continue in a situation where we are one step away from a nuclear accident. The safety of the Zaporizhzhia power plant hangs in the balance.” read more

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Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Olzhas Auyezov, Aleksandar Vasovic and other Reuters reporters; Written by Philippa Fletcher; Edited by Frank Jack Daniel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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