KYIV/ KHARKIV: Ukrainian forces kept pushing north in the Kharkiv region and advancing to its south and east, Ukraine’s army chief said on Sunday, a day after their rapid gains forced Russia to abandon its main bastion in the area. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailed Ukraine’s offensive in the northeast Kharkiv province as a potential breakthrough in the six-month-old war, saying this winter could bring more rapid gains of territory if Kyiv can get more powerful weapons.
Ukraine’s chief commander, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said the armed forces had regained control of more than 3,000 square km since the start of this month. “In the Kharkiv direction, we began to advance not only to the south and east, but also to the north. There are 50 km to go to the state border (with Russia),” he said on Telegram. The remarkable advance, if confirmed, means Kyiv’s forces have tripled their stated gains in little over 48 hours. On Thursday evening, Zelenskyy put the figure at 1,000 sqkm, and then 2,000 sq km on Saturday evening.
In Moscow, Russia’s defence ministry said Russian forces were hitting Ukrainian army positions in the Kharkiv region with precision strikes by airborne troops, missiles and artillery. The retreat from the city of Izium, an important logistics hub for Russian forces, was their worst defeat since they were repelled from the capital Kyiv in March, as thousands of Russian soldiers left behind ammunition and equipment as they fled. Moscow’s almost total silence on the defeat — or any explanation for what had taken place in northeastern Ukraine — provoked significant anger among pro-war commentators and Russian nationalists on social media. Some of them called on Sunday for President Putin to make immediate changes to ensure ultimate victory in the war.
Ukraine’s gains are important politically for Zelenskyy as he seeks to keep Europe united behind Ukraine — supplying weapons and money — even as an energy crisis looms this winter following cuts in Russian gas supplies to European customers. “I believe that this winter is a turning point, and it can lead to the rapid de-occupation of Ukraine,” Zelensky told a political forum. “If we were a little stronger with weapons, we would de-occupy faster,” he said in remarks published on his website late on Saturday.
Ukrainian officials stopped short of confirming they had recaptured Izium, but Zelenskyy’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak posted a photo of troops on its outskirts and tweeted an emoji of grapes. The city’s name means “raisin”. Defence minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine needed to secure retaken territory against a possible Russian counterattack on stretched Ukrainian supply lines. He told the Financial Times that Ukrainian forces could be encircled by fresh Russian troops if they advanced too far. But he said the offensive had gone far “better than expected”, describing it as a “snowball rolling down a hill”. “It’s a sign that Russia can be defeated,” he said.





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