Russia announces troop withdrawal from Kharkiv region – DW – 9/10/2022

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday it was withdrawing forces from two areas in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region where a Ukrainian counteroffensive has made significant advances in recent days.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said troops would be regrouped from the Balaklia and Izium areas in the Kharkiv region to the neighboring Donetsk region.

Izium was an important base for Russian forces in the Kharkiv area. Konashenkov said the transfer was being made “to achieve the stated objectives of the special military operation to liberate the Donbass”, a region of eastern Ukraine that Russia considers independent from Ukraine.

The alleged redeployment to Donetsk is similar to Russia’s justification for withdrawing its forces from the outskirts of Kiev earlier this year.

Izium’s sudden abandonment marks the biggest Russian defeat on the battlefield since Moscow forces were forced to abandon assault on the Ukrainian capital in March.

Russian troops fought hard to capture Izium early in the war, later using the area as a the logistical basis for one of its main campaigns: the attack on adjacent region of the Donbass.

Kupiansk capture

The Russian Defense Ministry’s announcement came hours after Ukrainian troops captured the northernmost city of Kupiansk, the only supply rail axis for Russia’s entire frontline in northeastern Ukraine. This abruptly cut off the supply route for thousands of Russian soldiers in the Izium area, isolating an entire stretch of front line that was the scene of some of the most intense battles of the war.

The reports came after several days of apparent advances by Ukrainian troops into southern Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, in what could become the biggest battlefield success for Ukrainian forces since they thwarted a Russian attempt to seize the country. capital, Kiev, at the beginning of the war, which has lasted almost seven months.

Earlier on Saturday morning, the British Defense Ministry told reporters it believed the Ukrainians had advanced as far as 50 kilometers south of Kharkiv, and described Russian forces around Izium as “increasingly isolated”.

“Ukrainian units are now threatening the city of Kupiansk; its capture would be a significant blow to Russia because it lies on supply routes to the Donbass frontline,” the British ministry added.

Moscow did not immediately recognize or comment on the allegations by Ukraine and its Western allies. However, Vladislav Sokolov, the head of the Russian-appointed local administration, said on social media that authorities in Izyum had begun to evacuate residents to Russia.

Ukrainian offensive in Kherson

The fighting in eastern Ukraine comes amid an ongoing offensive around Kherson in the south of the country. Analysts believe Russia withdrew troops from the east to reinforce the area around Kherson, offering Ukrainians the opportunity to attack a weakened front line.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told the Ukraina television channel that the Russians had no food or fuel for their troops in the area as Kiev had cut its supply lines.

The Ukrainian military said on Saturday that this week “more than 1,000 square kilometers” of territory had been retaken for pro-Kremlin forces.

In a video message released late on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukrainian troops had recaptured more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region since the counteroffensive began. “We are gradually taking control of more settlements, returning the Ukrainian flag and protection to our people,” Zelensky said. He spoke after the Ukrainian governor of Kharkiv reported that the national flag had been flown over Balakliia, a city recaptured by Ukrainian troops. on Thursday after six months of Russian occupation.

md (AP, Reuters)

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