The Russian army on Saturday abandoned its main stronghold in northeastern Ukraine, Izium in the Kharkiv region, in the face of a counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces that “will stop where our interests stop”. , as the secretary of Ukrainian National Defense and Security. Council.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message on Saturday that Ukrainian forces had retaken about 2,000 km2 in the territory since the start of their counter-offensive.
“This is the first counter-offensive that we have led. It proves that Russia is not only prevented but also beaten,” said the head of Ukrainian diplomacy, Dmitri Kouleba, in the Journal du Dimanche.
“If we join our efforts, with the moral force and the sacrifices of the Ukrainians combined with the weapons provided by the West, we will win”, he assured.
Russian troops in the vicinity of Izium, an important logistics node, have been ordered to redeploy to the Donetsk region, the Russian Defense Ministry announced on Saturday.
The Ukrainian army has also recaptured Kupiansk, a railway hub important for supplying Russian forces deployed in the East.
“In order to achieve the stated objectives of the special military operation for the liberation of Donbass (in eastern Ukraine), it was decided to regroup the Russian forces stationed in the districts of Balakliia and Izium”, said General Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense of Russia, quoted by the news agency.
A few hours later, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar announced in a press release the arrest of Balakliia.
The recapture of Izium was the worst defeat the Russian army had suffered since its abortive offensive against Kyiv in March.
Vitali Gantchev, head of the pro-Russian administration in part of the Moscow-controlled Kharkiv region, called on civilians to evacuate and flee Russia, to “save lives”, the Tass agency reported.
“Very clear and very fast progress”
A Reuters reporter who was in a large area taken in recent days by the Ukrainian army saw Ukrainian police units patrolling several towns and boxes of ammunition left in fleeing Russian soldiers.
Natalia Popova, adviser to the president of the Kharkiv regional council, shared photos on social networks showing troops raising Ukrainian colors in front of the Kupyansk city hall, the Russian flag spread at their feet .
In this city located 72 hours ago about fifty kilometers from the front line combined the railway lines that connect Russia with eastern Ukraine.
According to Western experts, its withdrawal by the Ukrainian army could cut off important supply lines between Russia and the Donbass and weaken Russia’s entire presence in the region, with thousands of soldiers at risk of being exposed. themselves surrounded in the area of ’Izioum, moreover. south
In Hrakove, one of the villages captured by Kyiv, Reuters reporters saw burnt-out cars with the letter “Z” that Russian forces have used to identify themselves since the start of the invasion operation. which was launched in Moscow on February 24 last. In a courtyard lay three bodies wrapped in white body bags.
Regional police chief Volodimir Tymoshenko said that Ukrainian police, who arrived in the locality on Friday, have been checking the identities of residents living under Russian occupation since the second day of the invasion.
“The first mission is to provide the help they need. Then it is to collect information on the crimes committed by the Russian invaders,” he said.
After remaining silent in response to the first reports of a Ukrainian breakthrough in the Kharkiv region on Wednesday night, Moscow finally acknowledged on Friday that its defenses had been destroyed in part of the front line in the southeast of the second largest the city of Ukraine.
Vitali Gantchev reported a “clear and very rapid advance” of the opposing forces. “We slowed down the enemy as much as possible, but many villages are already under the control of the Ukrainian armed forces,” he admitted.
In his ritual evening televised address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the Ukrainian army had liberated about 30 villages in several days in the region, and that it was also continuing counter-offensives in Donbass. (east) and around Kherson (south) .
“Our army, our intelligence units and our security services are conducting active operations in many operational areas. They have been successful in doing so,” he said.
After neglecting to strengthen the southern front, Russia announced that it sent reinforcements to the Kharkiv region and the Ministry of Defense released a video of military vehicles moving at high speed on a highway, without the income can tell the direction.
The Ukrainian army has not registered such a rapid advance since Russian troops stopped taking Kyiv in March and quickly retreated towards the border.
“We’ve seen that the Ukrainians have achieved success in Kherson, we’ve seen it in Kharkiv, it’s very, very encouraging,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during a press conference in Prague.
“The (Ukrainian) armed forces will stop where our interests stop, and that will depend on a number of circumstances,” Defense and National Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov told Voice of America.
The Russian army nevertheless continued to bombard Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, where ten people, including three children, were injured by rocket fire on Friday, according to the governor of Kharkiv oblast,