The Russian lines in the east of Ukraine are crumbling as Ukrainian forces make stunning gains to liberate their homeland, with the Russia Ministry of Defence admitting the scale of the collapse.
The offensive south of Kharkiv, which began on Tuesday, took the thinly defended Russian lines by surprise, leading to reports of mass retreats, mass surrenders and mass casualties that the Russian MoD has dressed up as a ‘re-grouping.’
Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Saturday that troops would be regrouped from the Balakliya and Izyum areas to Ukraine’s occupied Donetsk region.
Izyim was a major base for Russian forces in the Kharkiv region and earlier this week social media videos showed residents of Balakliya joyfully cheering as Ukrainian troops moved in.
Konashenkov said the Russian move is being made ‘in order to achieve the stated goals of the special military operation to liberate Donbas,’ one of the eastern Ukraine regions that Russia has declared sovereign.
Ukrainian soldiers hold a flag at a rooftop in Kupiansk as their lightning offensive causes Russian lines to collapse
Ukrainian solders pose for a photo beneath the sign of Izium, a key logistics hub and prize capture
Ukrainian servicemen raises his fist aloft in victory as his unit drives near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region
The blue patch represents almost a thousand square miles of territory liberated by Ukraine, and shows the counteroffensive taking aim at Limán and Lysychansk
The claim of pullback to concentrate on Donetsk is similar to the justification Russia gave for pulling back its forces from the Kyiv region earlier this year when they failed to take the Ukrainian capital.
The news is confirmation of stunning battlefield successes for the Ukrainian armed forces, having liberated almost a thousand square miles of Russian-held territory, according to the Washington DC-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War.
The territory includes the key strategic and logistical hubs in Izium and the town of Kupiansk that will in reality imperil Russia’s entire position in the Donbas.
Ukrainian officials earlier Saturday claimed major gains in a counteroffensive against Russian forces in the Kharkiv region, saying Ukrainian troops had cut off vital supplies to Izyum.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko also said that Ukrainian troops had retaken Kupiansk, a town along the main supply route to Izyum, long a focus on the Russian front line and the site of heavy artillery and other fighting.
Nikolenko tweeted a photo showing soldiers in front of what he said was a government building in Kupiansk, 45 miles north of Izyum.
The latest reports indicate fighting around the town of Limán, just 25 miles from the twin cities of Lysychnask and Severodonetsk that fell to Russian forces at the start of July after a long, grinding battle.
Denis Pushilin, the head of the separatist Donestk People’s Republic, reported on the fighting amid rumours that he had fled Donetsk.
The situation in Limán ‘remains quite difficult,’ he said in a video post from a moving car. ‘Just like a number of other locations in the north of the republic.’
And Serhiy Haidai, the Russia-installed governor of the Luhansk region, said that Ukrainian units had even reached the outskirts of Lysychansk itself.
‘Lysychnask, a great Ukrainian city. There will be a lot of reconstruction work,’ he said in a cryptic message.
A commanding officer of an anti-air unit of Ukraine’s Armed Forces loads a rocket launcher in his SUV as they prepare to support infantry in liberating Balakliya in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, Sept 8
A captured Russian tank near Balakliya, Kharkiv region, after Russian forces ran away and abandoned their weapons and equipment
This morning, Kyiv soldiers were pictured with their own nation’s flag as they claim to have retaken Kupyansk – something Russia disputes
A Russian tank destroyed by Ukrainian forces as they moved to recapture Balakliya earlier in the week