Ukraine pushes to take back all land from Russia, demands Western weapons

  • Ukraine took over dozens of cities in rapid advance
  • Many fleeing Russian soldiers have left Ukraine – US official
  • Zelenskiy asks for anti-aircraft systems from the West

ON THE WAY TO BALAKLIIA, Ukraine, September 13 (Reuters) – Ukraine said on Tuesday it intended to liberate all of its territory after pushing back Russian forces in the northeast of the country in a swift offensive , but called on the West to expedite deliveries of weapons systems to support the advance.

Since Moscow abandoned its main stronghold in northeastern Ukraine on Saturday, marking its worst defeat since the early days of the war, Ukrainian troops have retaken dozens of towns in a stunning shift in the momentum of the field of battle.

Fighting was still raging in the northeast region of Kharkiv, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar told Reuters on Tuesday, saying Ukrainian forces were progressing well because they were highly motivated and their operation was well planned.

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“The goal is to liberate the Kharkiv region and beyond – all the territories occupied by the Russian Federation,” she said on the road to Balakliia, a crucial military supply center taken over by the forces. at the end of last week which is 74 km (46 miles) southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.

In a video address late Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the West must speed up deliveries of weapons systems, calling on Ukraine’s allies to “strengthen cooperation to defeat Russian terrorism”.

Since Russia’s February 24 invasion, Washington and its allies have supplied Ukraine with billions of dollars worth of 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 areas.

Ukraine’s military reported no new advances on Tuesday, saying Russian forces were shelling parts of the Kharkiv region recaptured by Ukraine and attacking further south in the Donetsk region, which Moscow is trying to seize for proxies separatists.

Ukraine has repelled attacks in the Donetsk region, according to its staff report, while Denis Pushilin, leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, said his forces were repelling Ukrainian attacks and believed that the situation would improve.

Serhiy Gaidai, Ukrainian governor of the neighboring Luhansk region, which Moscow has seized, said a major Ukrainian offensive could be expected there on Tuesday.

Reuters could not immediately verify reports from the battlefield.

A senior US military official said earlier that Russia had largely ceded territory near Kharkiv in the northeast and had brought many of its troops back across the border. Read more

A video released by the Ukrainian Border Guard Service showed what it said were Ukrainian troops liberating the town of Vovchansk near the country’s border with Russia, burning flags and tearing down a poster saying ‘We are only doing one with Russia”.

CAUTION

A Moscow-based diplomat said the advance in the Kharkiv region was encouraging, but expressed caution about next steps.

“We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity, adding that a key question was whether Ukrainian forces would be able to move into the Luhansk region.

“So a significant moment but not yet the beginning of the end,” the diplomat said, stressing the importance of a possible impact on Russian morale in the south around Kherson, where Ukraine’s advance had so far reached. now been slow.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that Ukrainian forces have made “significant progress” with Western support to ensure they have the equipment they need.

Washington last week announced its latest weapons program for Ukraine, including munitions for HIMARS anti-rocket systems, and has already sent NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine capable of downing planes. Read more

Zelenskiy said Ukraine had taken back about 6,000 km2 (2,400 square miles) of territory, double what officials had cited on Sunday. A slice of Ukraine’s landmass of around 600,000 km2, it is roughly equivalent to the area of ​​the West Bank and Gaza combined.

After being pushed back from the capital Kyiv shortly after its invasion, Russia has refocused on capturing territories adjacent to Crimea to the south which it annexed in 2014 and to Donetsk and Luhansk in the industrial Donbass to the east. of Ukraine, which the separatists claimed the same year.

Zelenskiy’s adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, explained why Ukraine needed more weapons, saying that first, it needed air defense to protect its civilians and critical infrastructure.

“Secondly, the liberation of Luhansk/Donetsk will cause a domino effect, collapse the front line and lead to political destabilization. It is possible. Weapons needed,” he wrote on Twitter.

Russia denies targeting civilians, saying what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine is designed to degrade its neighbor’s military.

“HANGED BY A THREAD”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was no talk of national mobilization to bolster the operation in Ukraine.

Criticism of Russian leadership by nationalist commentators online who demanded mobilization was an example of “pluralism”, Peskov told reporters, adding that Russians as a whole continued to support President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin said on Monday the military operation would continue until it achieved its goals, but dodged questions about whether Putin still had faith in its military leadership.

Ukrainian officials say Russia 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 power cuts.

The shelling around Russia’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has raised serious concerns about the risk of a radioactive disaster. The UN’s atomic watchdog has proposed a protective zone around the nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, and both sides are interested, the IAEA chief said.

“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 Polityuk, Olzhas Auyezov, Aleksandar Vasovic and other Reuters reporters; Written by Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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