Kyiv is advancing to the east, moscow announces that it will “regroup” forces around donetsk.
Ukraine on Saturday asserted advances in the east of the country, including moving its troops into the key city of Kupyansk, and Moscow for its part announced that it would withdraw troops from the area to “reinforce” the separatist region further south. .
In the evening, the Ukrainian President was pleased that “about 2,000 km of our territory have been liberated since the beginning of September”. And the Russian army “made a good choice to flee,” added Volodymyr Zelenskyy, because “there is and will be no place for the occupying forces in Ukraine.”
He did not specify whether it was km2. On Thursday, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian army said his troops had taken 1,000 km2.
In the east, Ukrainian forces earlier announced they had entered the town of Kupyansk, which lies on Russian army supply routes. A new stage in Kiev’s recent Blitz counteroffensive that allowed it to retake entire swaths of land.
“Kupyansk is Ukraine,” a regional official wrote on social media, posting a photo of Ukrainian soldiers in the city of 27,000. The special forces also released pictures showing their officers “in Kupyansk, which was and always will be Ukrainian.”
This new Kiev advance south of Kharkiv could severely hamper Russia’s ability to resupply its positions on the Eastern Front and provide effective logistical support.
The day before, Mr. Zelensky had announced that his forces had taken 30 locations in this border region of Russia.
– Ukrainian flag hoisted –
On Saturday, AFP journalists saw charred Russian trucks and armored vehicles there, some still stamped with the letter Z, symbol of the February 24 invasion of Ukraine. Ukrainian soldiers patrolled Balakliia, the main recaptured town where the Ukrainian flag was flying.
That flag was raised there in the presence of the commander of Ukraine’s Ground Forces, Oleksandre Syrski, according to a video posted to Twitter by the Ukrainian defense.
“Today we complete the liberation of Balaklya, the first major city of our offensive, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Kupyansk is ahead of us, our troops have already taken half of it. And still ahead of us, Izioum and many others,” he explained on the occasion.
For his part, the head of the Russian occupation administration in the Isium region, Vladislav Sokolov, acknowledged that the situation there was “difficult”.
“In the last two weeks, the city has been bombarded by Ukrainian forces, in particular with Himar-type ammunition (…), causing heavy destruction and causing many deaths and injuries,” he told Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti.
Himars are several rocket launchers shipped to Kyiv from Washington.
– Moscow “regroups” forces near Donetsk –
The Russian Defense Ministry then announced that it had “withdrawn” its forces present “in the Balakliïa and Izium regions” to “intensify efforts” further south around Donetsk, one of the separatist capitals.
A region where the situation is “difficult”, commented on Saturday its pro-Russian separatist leader Denis Pushilin.
In Lyman, a town that fell to Moscow forces at the end of May, “the situation remains quite difficult, as in other places in the north of the Donetsk People’s Republic,” he said in a video on Telegram.
“Ukrainian forces are advancing in eastern Ukraine, liberating more towns and villages. Their courage, added to the military support of the West, leads to surprising results,” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on social networks.
“Sending arms to Ukraine is crucial. Defeating Russia on the battlefield means winning peace in Ukraine,” he added.
The Ukrainians also made progress in the south of the country. “Our soldiers are advancing on the front line in the south in several areas from two to tens of kilometers,” spokeswoman for the military command of southern Ukraine Natalia Goumenyuk told local media without further details.
In the north-east, near Kharkiv, Russian forces announced on Friday that they had sent reinforcements to counter Kiev’s successful counter-offensive.
– “You can continue to count on us” –
In the village of Grakové, just recaptured by Ukrainian forces, AFP journalists on Friday saw destruction testifying to the violence of the fighting, with power poles down and cables scattered on the ground.
“It was scary, there were shells and explosions everywhere,” Anatoly Vasiliev, 61, told AFP.
The bodies of two civilians with signs of torture and bullet holes in the back of their heads were discovered there, the public prosecutor said on Saturday, which initiated investigations and a forensic examination of the bodies.
According to this source, after Grakové was retaken, a local resident went to the police and claimed that Russian soldiers forced him to bury the two bodies.
On Saturday, the head of German diplomacy, Annalena Baerbock, arrived in Kyiv for a surprise visit (her second since the war began), a week after that of Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Schmygal in Berlin, where he had again requested arms supplies to his country.
“You can still count on us. We will continue to provide arms, humanitarian and financial support to Ukraine for as long as necessary,” Baerbock said in a statement.
Germany has delivered howitzers, rocket launchers and anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine in recent weeks. They are part of the Western-provided military arsenal that experts say has helped hamper the capabilities of the Russian armed forces.
Ms. Baerbock’s visit also comes after a trip by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who pledged $2.8 billion in new military aid.
During a meeting in Brussels with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Mr Blinken said Russia’s deployment of reinforcements showed it was paying a “heavy price” in its attempt to seize Ukrainian territory.
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