- Ukraine recaptured dozens of towns early
- Many Russian troops left Ukraine fleeing – US official
- Zelensky demands anti-aircraft systems from the West
Ukraine said on Tuesday it aims to liberate all of its territory after expelling Russian forces in the country’s northeast in a swift offensive, but called on the West to speed up deliveries. Weapon systems to support progress.
Since Moscow abandoned its main stronghold in northeastern Ukraine on Saturday, in its worst defeat since the early days of the war, Ukrainian forces have retaken control of dozens of towns in a stunning shift in battlefield momentum.
Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar told Reuters on Tuesday that fighting is still raging in the northeastern Kharkiv region, adding that Ukrainian forces are making good progress because they are very conservative and their operation is well planned.
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She said on the way to Balaklia, an important military supply center recaptured by Ukrainian forces late last week which is located 74 kilometers (46 miles) southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address late on Monday that the West should speed up delivery of weapons systems, calling on Ukraine’s allies to “strengthen cooperation to defeat Russian terrorism.”
Since the Russian invasion on February 24, Washington and its allies have supplied Ukraine with billions of dollars in weapons that Kyiv says have helped limit Moscow’s gains. Russian forces control about a fifth of the country in the south and east, but Ukraine is now on the offensive in both regions.
The Ukrainian military reported no new advances on Tuesday, saying Russian forces were shelling parts of Ukraine’s retaken Kharkiv region and attacking further south in the Donetsk region, which Moscow is trying to capture for separatist proxies.
The report of the Ukrainian General Staff said that Ukraine repelled the attacks of the Donetsk region, while Denis Pushilin, the president of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, said that its forces were repelling the Ukrainian attacks and that he believed the situation would improve.
Serhiy Gaidai, the Ukrainian governor of the neighboring Luhansk region, which has been seized by Moscow, said a major Ukrainian attack could be expected there on Tuesday.
Reuters was not immediately able to verify the battlefield reports.
A senior US military official said earlier that Russia had largely given up territory near Kharkiv in the northeast and had withdrawn many of its forces across the border. Read more
A video released by Ukrainian border guards showed what it said were Ukrainian soldiers liberating the town of Vovchansk near the country’s border with Russia, burning flags and tore down a poster that read “We are one with Russia”.
A Moscow-based diplomat said progress in the Kharkiv region was encouraging but expressed caution about the next steps.
“We should not get ahead of ourselves,” said the diplomat, who asked not to be identified, adding that the main question was whether Ukrainian forces would be able to move into the Luhansk region.
“This is an important moment but it is not the beginning of the end yet,” the diplomat said, noting the importance of the potential impact on Russian morale in the south around Kherson, where Ukraine’s progress has so far been slow.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Monday that Ukrainian forces have made “significant progress” with Western support to ensure they have the equipment they need.
Washington last week announced Ukraine’s latest weapons program, including ammunition for HIMARS anti-missile systems, and previously sent Ukraine’s NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems, capable of shooting down aircraft. Read more
Zelensky said Ukraine has reclaimed about 6,000 square kilometers (2,400 square miles) of land, double what officials said on Sunday. The area of the territory of Ukraine is about 600,000 square kilometers, which is approximately equal to the combined area of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Having been expelled from the capital Kyiv shortly after its invasion, Russia refocused its attention on capturing lands adjacent to Crimea in the south it annexed in 2014 and in Donetsk and Luhansk in the industrial Donbass in eastern Ukraine, which the separatists claimed in the same year.
Zelensky’s adviser, Mikhailo Podolyak, explained why Ukraine needs more weapons, saying that it first needs air defense to protect civilians and vital infrastructure.
He wrote on Twitter: “Secondly, the liberation of Luhansk / Donetsk will lead to a domino effect, the fall of the front line, and will lead to political instability. This is possible. Weapons are needed.”
Russia denies targeting civilians, saying what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine is aimed at weakening its neighbor’s army.
‘hanging by a thread’
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was no discussion of national mobilization to strengthen the operation in Ukraine.
Peskov told reporters that criticism of the Russian leadership by nationalist online commentators who have called for mobilization is an example of “pluralism,” adding that Russians as a whole continue to support President Vladimir Putin.
On Monday, the Kremlin said the military operation would continue until its goals were achieved, but avoided asking whether Putin still trusted his military leadership.
Ukrainian officials say Russia has responded to Kyiv’s battlefield successes by bombing power plants and other key infrastructure, causing blackouts in Kharkiv and elsewhere. Russia blamed Ukraine for the blackout.
The bombing around the Russian-controlled Zaporizhia nuclear power plant raised great concerns about the risk of a radiological catastrophe. The Secretary-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency said that the International Atomic Energy Agency had proposed creating a protection zone around the nuclear reactor, the largest in Europe, and that both sides were interested.
“We are playing with fire,” Rafael Grossi told reporters. “We cannot continue in a situation where we are one step away from a nuclear accident. The safety of the Zaporizhzhia power plant hangs by a thread.” Read more
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Additional reporting by Pavel Politiuk, Olgas Oyzov, Aleksandar Vasovich and other Reuters reporters. Writing by Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel
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