Offensive Has Russians Leaving Areas in Northeast



(Newser)

Ukraine’s advance into its northeast on Saturday regained strategically key cities and towns, places Russian forces had battled for months to seize. The turnabout represents one of the biggest losses for Russia since the invasion began, the Wall Street Journal reports. Its Defense Ministry announced its withdrawal of troops from parts of the Kharkiv region, per the AP, saying that will allow Russian forces to concentrate on Donetsk. Russia made a similar argument earlier this year when pulling back from Kyiv, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky taunted Russia over its latest retreat.


“The Russian army in these days is demonstrating the best that it can do—showing its back,” Zelenskyy said in a video released Saturday night. “And, of course, it’s a good decision for them to run.” Ukrainian troops employed Western-made weapons, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, against Russian supply lines and front lines in the weeks before the offensive began this week. It then took only days to recapture parts of the region. By retreating from the cities, Russia probably is seeking to avoid being surrounded now that Ukraine has taken the town of Kupyansk and cut the last artery connecting Russia to thousands of its front-line troops. Kupyansk is a rail and road hub, per the Journal.


“It’s a complete collapse,” Phillips O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said of the Russians’ withdrawal. “In the battle of Donbas, they probably had more troops deployed there than anywhere, and now they seem to be unable to hold anything.” The British Defense Ministry said Saturday it appears Ukrainian troops had advanced as much as 30 miles south of Kharkiv. Russian forces are “increasingly isolated,” the ministry said. “Russian forces were likely taken by surprise. The sector was only lightly held, and Ukrainian units have captured or surrounded several towns.” (Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)