Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine Is Failing, Says UK

File photo of Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (C) hosting a meeting in England. AFP

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to mobilise military reservists to support the war in Ukraine shows that “his invasion is failing”, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Wednesday.

“No amount of threats and propaganda can hide the fact that Ukraine is winning this war, the international community are united and Russia is becoming a global pariah,” he said in a statement.

AFP

Putin Calls Up Reservists, Says Russia Will Use ‘All Means’ For Defence

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses a gathering in Moscow on September 20, 2022. (Photo by Grigory SYSOYEV / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial military mobilisation and vowed on Wednesday to use “all available means” to protect Russian territory, after Moscow-held regions of Ukraine suddenly announced annexation referendums.

The votes, already denounced by Kyiv and the West as a “sham”, will dramatically up the stakes in the seven-month-old conflict in Ukraine by giving Moscow the ability to accuse Ukrainian forces of attacking its own territory.

Four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine — Donetsk and Lugansk in the east and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south — said on Tuesday that they would hold the votes over five days beginning Friday.

READ ALSO: Again, Ukraine Accuses Russia Of Shelling Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant

In a pre-recorded address to the nation early on Wednesday, Putin accused the West of trying to “destroy” his country through its backing of Kyiv, and said Russia needed to support those in Ukraine who wanted to “determine their own future”.

The Russian leader announced a partial military mobilisation, with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu telling state television that some 300,000 reservists would be called up.

 ‘Not a bluff’

“When the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff,” Putin said.

“Those who are trying to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the wind can also turn in their direction,” Putin added.

Putin said that through its support for Ukraine the West was trying to “weaken, divide and ultimately destroy our country”, while Shoigu said Moscow was “fighting not so much Ukraine as the collective West” in Ukraine.

The sudden flurry of moves by Moscow this week came with Russian forces in Ukraine facing their biggest challenge since the start of the conflict.

In a rare admission of military losses from Moscow, Shoigu said Wednesday that 5,937 Russian soldiers had died in Ukraine since the launch of the military intervention in February.

A sweeping Ukrainian counter-offensive in recent weeks has seen Kyiv’s forces retake hundreds of towns and villages that had been controlled by Russia for months.

The referendums follow a pattern first established in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine after a similar vote.

Like in 2014, Washington, Berlin and Paris denounced the latest referendums and said the international community would never recognise the results.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said they were a “sham”, French President Emmanuel Macron called them a “travesty”, and White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said they were “an affront to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

“Sham referenda and mobilisation are signs of weakness, of Russian failure,” the US ambassador in Ukraine, Bridget Brink, said on Twitter.

“I thank all the friends and partners of Ukraine for their massive and firm condemnation of Russia’s intentions to organise yet more pseudo-referendums,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in response.

Strike at the nuclear plant

Kyiv said the referendums were meaningless and vowed to “eliminate” threats posed by Russia, saying its forces would keep retaking territory regardless of what Moscow or its proxies announced.

Political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya said the vote announcements were a direct result of the success of Ukraine’s eastern counter-offensive.

“Putin does not want to win this war on the battlefield. Putin wants to force Kyiv to surrender without a fight,” she said.

The Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom meanwhile on Wednesday accused Russia of again striking the Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant in southern Ukraine.

The strike damaged a power line causing the stoppage of several transformers of the number six reactor of the plant and forcing a brief start of emergency generators, Energoatom said.

“Even the presence of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) does not stop” the Russians, it said, calling on the agency to “more resolute actions” against Moscow.

Europe’s largest nuclear facility, located in Russian-held territory, has become a hot spot for concerns after tit-for-tat claims of attacks there.

AFP

Macron Brands Invasion Of Ukraine A Return To ‘Imperialism’

In this file photo, a Ukrainian tank rolls down a road at a position along the front line in the Donetsk region on August 15, 2022, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Anatolii Stepanov / AFP)

 

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday told the United Nations that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine harked back to an age of imperialism.

“What we have witnessed since February 24 is a return to the age of imperialism and colonies. France refuses this and will work persistently for peace,” he told the UN General Assembly.

“Who is a hegemon now if not Russia?” he asked.

Macron addressed the General Assembly hours after Russian allies said they would call referendums on annexation in occupied parts of Ukraine, a move denounced by Western powers.

READ ALSO: EU Calls For War Crime Tribunal Over Mass Graves In Ukraine

European countries and the United States have imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia but a number of developing nations have sought more of a middle ground and fear that the Ukraine crisis is overshadowing other concerns.

“Those who are silent now on this new imperialism, or are secretly complicit with it, show a new cynicism that is tearing down the global order without which peace is not possible,” Macron said.

AFP

Tears Of Relief As Ukraine Frontline Families Reunite

Olga Valkova (R), 64, embraces her sister-in-law Lidya Kandaurov, 58, as she returns to her liberated home village after six months and eleven days in Troitske, Kharkiv region, on September 18, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

 

Olga Valkova had often cried since invading Russian forces seized the Ukrainian village of Troitske, cutting her off from her family and her country cottage.

On her return, the 64-year-old wept again, but now she was choking back sobs of joy as she passed out food to the Ukrainian soldiers who liberated her district.

And she could not hold back tears once again as she fell at last into the arms of her brother Leonid Kandaurov, 60, and his wife, her sister-in-law Lydia.

The reunion came six months and eleven days after their lives were turned upside down.

Troitske is a couple of rows of bungalows with vegetable patches, ducks and a fishing lake, nestled among northeastern Ukraine’s vast sunflower fields.

Before the war, Olga and her retired truck driver husband Alex Vashchenko, 65, would visit their white-walled dacha several times a month to tend their vegetables.

Its three rooms are built around a brick oven, above a root cellar to store crops, such as the measly onions that failed this year, untended during the occupation.

‘Weapons pointed’

On February 25, the second day of the invasion, the sudden Russian push on Kharkiv swiftly enveloped Troitske.

Olga was not there, but her friend Anna Kryvonosova, 65, took up the story.

“For three days in a row, starting February 25, Russian armoured vehicles drove by along this street,” she told AFP.

“It was terrifying. Soldiers were on top of the armoured vehicles with weapons pointed at us, at our home. This was a real occupation.

“They entered our homes, checked our documents, searched everywhere … the closets, the basements. Everywhere, they searched everywhere.”

The day of their liberation was scarcely less intimidating.

Sounds of explosions erupted from nearby town of Shevchenkove, and mysterious tanks appeared, swivelling their gun turrets to point at Troitske.

But the villagers were relieved when the infantry unit that marched in under cover from the tanks was the 92nd Brigade of the Ukrainian army.

Anna’s husband Nikolai Kryvonosov is now free to greet visiting reporters with a toast from his stash of moonshine.

“To victory, so that Putin dies. Fuck him,” the moustachioed 67-year-old declared — in Russian — knocking back a shot of the nutty, volatile spirit.

Russian forces used Troitske as a supply route and patrolled the area, but did not set up base within the small village.

Instead, they fortified a tractor workshop down the road, which is now bombed out and being repaired to become a Ukrainian checkpoint.

Locals proudly recount how they called relatives in Kharkiv who reported the Russian position to the Ukrainian SBU security service.

Some of Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin’s supporters defend his invasion by arguing there was a need to protect eastern Ukraine’s “Russians” from persecution.

The Kharkiv region is largely Russian-speaking, but the city itself resisted the Russian advance and the villagers in Troitske did not welcome Putin’s invasion.

Many of the families who spoke to AFP have sons away serving with the Ukrainian armed forces, and some kept Ukrainian flags at home. They were scared but defiant.

Anya Ratiy is only 17, and tried to continue her studies online. She managed to get out of the village in August, and returned after its liberation.

Today she can play football in the afternoon sun, proudly sporting her blue and yellow jersey — Ukraine’s national colours.

Did she wear it when the Russians were about?

“Yes!” she declared proudly, before adding with a laugh: “But when they came we would run and hide.”

The football-playing kids boast of seeing rockets flying overhead as recently as two days ago, but their days of running and hiding are gone for now.

On September 7, Ukraine’s surprise counteroffensive drove the Russian troops back east, and allowed Olga and Alex to return from Kharkiv to her family village.

Singing celebration

Their bungalow was intact. Olga threw herself face down onto her pillow, wailing: “This is my home. This is my bed.”

Olga’s brother Leonid and sister-in-law Lydia remained through the occupation, tending their vegetable plot and orchard. A feast was soon prepared to celebrate.

Leonid is a retired forest ranger and a keen hunter, but the Russian troops seized his hunting rifles.

His excitable hunting dogs are keen to get back into the forest, but for now the table is groaning with cheeses, sausages and vegetables.

Toast after toast is called with various varieties of home-distilled samogon alcohol.

Then Olga and Lydia break into song, first the national anthem “Ukraine is not dead yet” then a rousing patriotic folk song.

Tears flow again as the women hug and share video messages from sons long-absent on the front line, fighting Russian forces on other fronts.

EU Calls For War Crime Tribunal Over Mass Graves In Ukraine

Forensic technicians dig a grave in a forest on the outskirts of Izyum, eastern Ukraine on September 16, 2022.  (Photo by SERGEY BOBOK / AFP)

 

The EU presidency on Saturday called for the establishment of an international tribunal for war crimes after new mass graves were found in Ukraine.

“In the 21st century, such attacks against the civilian population are unthinkable and abhorrent,” said Jan Lipavsky, foreign minister of the Czech Republic which holds the European Union’s rotating presidency.

“We must not overlook it. We stand for the punishment of all war criminals,” he added in a message on Twitter.

“I call for the speedy establishment of a special international tribunal that will prosecute the crime of aggression.”

The appeal follows the discovery by Ukrainian authorities of around 450 graves outside the formerly Russian-occupied city of Izyum with some of the exhumed bodies showing signs of torture.

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky, in his evening address, said that “new evidence of torture was obtained” from the bodies buried there.

“More than 10 torture chambers have already been found in various cities and towns liberated in Kharkiv region,” he added, describing the discovery of electrical implements for torture.

“That’s what the Nazis did. This is what Ruscists do. And they will be held accountable in the same way — both on the battlefield and in courtrooms,” he promised.

“Among the bodies that were exhumed today, 99 percent showed signs of violent death,” Oleg Synegubov, head of Kharkiv regional administration, said on social media.

“There are several bodies with their hands tied behind their backs, and one person is buried with a rope around his neck,” he added.

READ ALSO: Ukraine’s President Zelensky Involved In Car Accident

‘Probably 1,000 tortured and killed’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the mass graves likely provided more evidence that Russia is committing war crimes in its pro-Western neighbour. French President Emmanuel Macron described what had happened in Izyum as atrocities.

The Ukrainian parliament’s human rights commissioner, Dmytro Lubinets, said there were “probably more than 1,000 Ukrainian citizens tortured and killed in the liberated territories of the Kharkiv region”.

The United Nations in Geneva has said it hopes to send a team to determine the circumstances of the deaths.

The macabre discoveries came a little more than five months after the Russian army, driven out of Bucha near the capital Kyiv, left behind hundreds of corpses of civilians, many of whom had signs of torture and summary executions.

On Thursday, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said she wanted Russian President Vladimir Putin to face the International Criminal Court over war crimes in Ukraine.

In Washington, US President Joe Biden warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin against using chemical or tactical nuclear weapons in the wake of serious losses in his war in Ukraine.

“Don’t. Don’t. Don’t,” Biden said, in an excerpt from an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired Friday evening.

“You would change the face of war unlike anything since World War II,” Biden said.

 ‘Pushing them back’

On the ground, Ukrainian forces have recaptured thousands of square kilometres in recent weeks thanks to a counter-offensive in the north-east and now threaten enemy positions in the south, as the fighting and bombings continue.

The Russians “are angry because our army is pushing them back in its counter-offensive,” said Svitlana Shpuk, a 42-year-old worker in Kryvyi Rih, a southern town, and Zelensky’s hometown, which was flooded after a dam was destroyed by Russian missiles.

Synegubov said an 11-year-old girl had been killed by missile fire in the region.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of Donestk in eastern Ukraine which has been partially controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014, said on social media that a thermal power plant was “shelled by Russian invaders” on Saturday morning in Mykolaivka.

Ukrainian firefighters were battling the blaze, he said, adding that the Russian shelling had led to interruptions to drinking water supply.

“The occupiers are deliberately targeting infrastructure in the area to try to inflict as much damage as possible, primarily on the civilian population,” he charged.

He had earlier reported that two civilians had been killed and 11 wounded in the past 24 hours by Russian fire.

Few residents on the streets

In its daily briefing in Moscow, the Kremlin said it had carried out “high-precision” strikes against Ukrainian positions in the Mykolaiv and Kharkiv regions.

In the northeastern town of Kupiansk, which was recaptured last week by Ukrainian forces, clashes continued with the Russian army entrenched on the eastern side of the Oskil river.

Few residents ventured out into the streets where Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers were moving about.

A column of smoke rose over the east of the city, where an ammunition depot was burning.

In the centre of the small town, the damaged police station stood deserted, the tattered red flag of the Russian army lying on the ground outside.

The Ukrainian army in a statement said “the enemy carried out four missile strikes and 15 air strikes during the day, as well as more than 20 multiple rocket launcher strikes on civilian and military sites in Ukraine”.

In the relative calm of Kyiv on Saturday, hundreds of Ukrainians took part in a farewell ceremony at the national opera house for former ballet dancer and later teacher Oleksandr Shapoval. He was killed at the age of 47 in the east of the country while fighting the Russians.

Shapoval was hit by mortar fire on September 12, near the town of Mayorsk in the Donetsk region.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant began receiving power from the national grid once again, the UN’s atomic agency (IAEA) said Saturday after it was cut off from external power, raising the risk of an accident.

The Russian-occupied plant, the largest in Europe, had been cut from the national grid since September due to shelling.

AFP

China Expresses Willingness To Work With Russia As ‘Great Powers’ 

This combination of pictures created on September 15, 2022, shows Russian President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping during their meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) leaders’ summit in Samarkand. (Photo by Alexandr Demyanchuk / SPUTNIK / AFP)

 

Chinese President Xi Jinping told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday that Beijing was willing to work with Moscow as “great powers” during his first trip overseas since the early days of the pandemic.

China is willing to make efforts with Russia to assume the role of great powers, and play a guiding role to inject stability and positive energy into a world rocked by social turmoil,” Xi told Putin during a leaders’ summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

The SCO is made up of China, Russia, India, Pakistan, and four Central Asian countries — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

READ ALSO: Ukraine’s President Zelensky Involved In Car Accident

“Recently, we have been overcoming the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, spoken many times via phone, and kept up effective strategic communications,” Xi told Putin.

“We are extremely willing to use this meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to exchange views with you on international and regional issues of common concern,” he said.

Xi arrived in Uzbekistan on Wednesday and has held talks with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on “deepening bilateral cooperation” and “regional and international issues of shared interest”.

The visit came on the heels of a trip to Kazakhstan, where Xi vowed full support for a country spooked by Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

AFP

Defying Warnings, Jews Embark On Ukraine Pilgrimage

Prime Minister of Israel Yair Lapid this month urged citizens to avoid Uman.

 

Thousands of Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jews have vowed to brave the dangers of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and make a pilgrimage there during the Jewish new year, Rosh Hashana.

Among those who said they would not be deterred by the war or by government travel warnings and head to the Ukrainian city of Uman was Avraham Burstein, 51, a musician and actor.

“It is like being in love, I simply have to go,” he said as he tuned his accordion at his Yiddish music school in Jerusalem.

Burstein has travelled to Uman, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Kyiv, every year since 1989, only missing the pilgrimage once, in 2020, when the Covid pandemic shut down international travel.


READ ALSO: Russian Intelligence Fails Again Over Ukraine Counter-Offensive


That year he still attempted to enter Ukraine and “tried from eight different countries”, he chuckled, insisting that this year he would make it to Uman for the holiday which begins on September 25.

Most of those travelling are, like Burstein, members of the Breslov branch of haredi Judaism, loyal followers of Rabbi Nachman, from Bratslav in modern-day Ukraine, who died in 1810.

Nachman was the founder of an ultra-Orthodox movement that settled in Uman in the early 1800s. Before his death, he asked that his followers visit his tomb to celebrate Jewish holidays.

“For us, it would be nice if he was buried in London, or in Amsterdam, even in Berlin,” said Burstein. “But he chose to be there, and he asked us to come every year for Rosh Hashana, so we have to go.”

‘Let me go’

The pilgrimage was greatly suppressed during the era of the Soviet Union, and it was only after its collapse in 1991 that the annual visits began to balloon into the tens of thousands.

“All my life growing up, I prayed to God: please one time let me go to Rabbi Nachman’s grave, just one time,” said Burstein.

“It was so difficult” because of the stringent Soviet restrictions on entry, he said. “North Korea was easier to go to. It was like the moon.”

Though he said he had not yet booked his ticket, Burstein planned to travel later this week with his two sons.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid this month urged citizens to avoid Uman, warning of a “life-threatening danger”, and the Ukranian embassy in Israel last week issued a similar warning.

Uman was badly hit by Russian missiles in the early weeks of the war, and just last month a civilian was killed by a Russian missile in the district, according to a statement from a regional official, Ihor Taburets, posted on messaging service Telegram.

Burstein said he could “understand the prime minister and president asking us not to go — they are responsible for the security of the people”.

But he argued that, given the frequent security incidents in his home country, “if you are coming from Israel, you don’t worry about the danger”.

Sold-out flights

Direct flights to Kyiv have been cancelled since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, yet thousands of pilgrims have already set out on their journeys.

One haredi travel agent in Jerusalem, who asked not to be named for fear of rebuke in the community, said flights to countries bordering Ukraine had largely sold out for the rest of the month.

At Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport last week, flights to Moldova and Romania were packed with Breslov haredim heading for Uman.

“Why should we be worried? If you believe in God you’re not afraid of anything,” Avraham Elbaz told AFP as he checked in for his flight to the Moldovan capital Chisinau.

In September 2020, thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews were trapped for days between the borders of Belarus and Ukraine after Kyiv refused to allow them entry due to the Covid pandemic.

Before the pandemic, more than 50,000 pilgrims travelled annually during Rosh Hashana, said Gilad Malach, director of the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel programme at the Israel Democracy Institute think-tank.

He estimated that anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000 pilgrims would attempt the journey this year.

“The majority, when there are restrictions, understand the reasons not to go, whether that is Covid-19 or the war,” Malach told AFP.

“But for the hardcore hasidim, it’s one of the basic commitments that they have,” he added, saying their belief is that “you should do anything to get there”.

“The more it is forbidden or hard, the more you are appreciated as a follower if you succeed in overcoming the obstacles and visiting the grave.”

For Burstein, the war has only heightened the journey’s importance.

“We hope that because of our prayer there, we can bring peace to the world,” he said.

Russian Intelligence Fails Again Over Ukraine Counter-Offensive

 

A lightning Ukrainian counter-offensive with the potential to be a turning point in Kyiv’s fight against the Russian invasion has once again highlighted Moscow’s intelligence shortcomings in the war, analysts say.

The offensive has seen Ukraine recapture the strategic city of Izyum — which symbolically was visited by President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday — and the ousting of Russian forces from most of the country’s eastern Kharkiv region.

The push came after the over half-year conflict appeared to have reached a kind of stalemate over the summer, with Russian forces holding large parts of Ukraine’s east and south but failing to make much further headway.

“This is a colossal Russian military intelligence failure, the fact that they did not see this build-up coming,” said Michael Kofman, senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses’ Russia studies program.

“The Russian military intelligence completely blew this,” he added.

“Russia failed to anticipate” Ukraine’s push, said Pierre Grasser, a historian of international relations and researcher at the Paris-based Sirice institution.


READ ALSO: Defying Warnings, Jews Embark On Ukraine Pilgrimage


Echoing other analysts, Grasser said Ukraine had benefitted by carrying out a major feint tactic, making a counter-attack in the south before launching an even more massive one in the northeast.

“Faint signals could however have alerted” Moscow, he said.

Ukraine had been active through smaller operations on the northeast frontline since August, while the conflict has also been marked by an unprecedented profusion of open-source intelligence such as satellite images.

‘Still very centralised’

But the intelligence failure also recalls the apparent over-confidence of Russia six months ago in anticipating that its forces would rapidly surge through Ukraine and take even the capital Kyiv.

Moscow then appeared to scale down its priorities in the short term by focusing on taking control of the east and the south, and no longer explicitly evoking a goal of regime change.

Yet in the face of the military setbacks and problems with reinforcements, President Vladimir Putin has so far resisted making any move toward enforced military conscription.

Rob Lee, a researcher at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), said some Russian Telegram channels had for a month been evoking a Ukrainian concentration around Kharkiv.

“One of the Russian military’s biggest weaknesses is that it is slow to respond to changes on the battlefield,” he said.

Lee said that Russia had in particular been caught “flat-footed” by the advances in Ukraine’s military hardware due to Western support, notably the HIMARS multiple rocket launchers delivered by the US.

“There are different explanations for why these mistakes are being made, but they indicate a very fundamental problem with Russian military leadership. The Russian military’s decision-making is still very centralised,” he said.

– ‘Did not understand’ –
The Ukrainian counter-offensive has also caused open alarm in Russia, with comments by some experts on state TV abandoning the line that what Moscow dubs the “special military operation” has gone well.

The powerful leader of the Russian region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, whose own militia fighters had been involved in the invasion, openly spoke on his Telegram channel of the “mistakes” made in the Russian tactics.

He has now urged that head of every Russian region to muster 1,000 volunteers to go fight in Ukraine.

In Moscow, Russian military expert Alexander Khramchikhin said Russia’s response had also been complicated by Ukraine’s tactic of launching simultaneous attacks.

“Russian intelligence did not understand where exactly the actual counter-offensive would take place,” he told AFP.

Khramchikhin also said there was a stark difference in mobilisation between Russia and Ukraine.

“In Ukraine, the whole population is mobilised,” he said. “So the Ukrainians can add all the manpower they want.”

Along with the weapons deliveries from the West, Ukraine has also benefitted immensely from Western intelligence resources, he added.

“Ukraine receives real-time information from US satellites and long-range radar detection aircraft,” he said.

Zelensky Says Ukraine Retook 6,000 sq Km Of Territory This Month

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a joint press conference with his Polish counterpart in Kyiv on August 23, 2022, amid Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a joint press conference with his Polish counterpart in Kyiv on August 23, 2022, amid Russia’s military invasion launched on Ukraine. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)

 

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday said Ukrainian forces had recaptured 6,000 square kilometres (2,320 square miles) of territory from Russia in a counter-offensive this month.

“Since the start of September, our soldiers have already liberated 6,000 square kilometres of Ukrainian territory in the east and south, and we are moving further,” Zelensky said in his daily address.

Ukraine has claimed sweeping successes in its lightning counter-offensive in Kharkiv region in the northeast, which saw dozens of areas, including the cities of Izyum, Kupiansk and Balakliya, retaken.

READ ALSO: Britons Get First Chance To View Queen Elizabeth II’s Coffin

It has also claimed significant gains in the southern Kherson region, where the Ukrainian army said earlier on Monday it had recaptured 500 square kilometres.

The US-based Institute for the Study of War think tank said that “Ukraine has turned the tide in its favour, but the current counter-offensive will not end the war”.

AFP

Kremlin Says Ukraine Operations To Continue ‘Until Objectives Achieved’

This photograph taken on September 11, 2022, shows an abandoned Russian tank in vegetation in a village on the outskirts of Izyum, Kharkiv Region, eastern Ukraine, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. AFP

 

Russia’s military action in Ukraine will continue, the Kremlin said Monday, after Ukrainian forces reclaimed significant territory in a counter-offensive in the country’s east.

“The special military operation continues and will continue until the objectives that were originally set are achieved,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding that he saw “no prospects for negotiations” between Moscow and Kyiv.

Meanwhile, Ukraine forces said Monday their lightning counter-offensive took back more ground in the past 24 hours, as Russia replied with strikes on some of the recaptured ground.

The territorial shifts were one of Russia’s biggest reversals since its forces were turned back from Kyiv in the earliest days of the nearly seven months of fighting, yet Moscow signalled it was no closer to agreeing a negotiated peace.


READ ALSO: War In Ukraine: From Invasion To Lightning Counter-Attack


“Ukraine has turned the tide in its favour, but the current counter-offensive will not end the war,” US think tank Institute for the Study of War tweeted.

Moscow announced air, rocket and artillery attacks on reclaimed areas in the Kharkiv region on Monday, a day after Kyiv said Russian strikes on electricity infrastructure caused power failures.

The retaliatory fire came as Ukraine said forces had recaptured more than 20 additional settlements, claiming “Russian troops are hastily abandoning their positions and fleeing”.

Kyiv had already announced the recapture of the strategic city of Izyum in the country’s east, one of a series of victories claimed against Russia’s army.

Ukraine said on Monday its forces recaptured 500 square kilometres (193 square miles) in the southern Kherson region which were in addition to the huge gains in the east over the weekend.

Moscow conceded having lost territory, which experts saw as a serious blow to its war ambitions, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saw no prospects for negotiations.

“The special military operation continues and will continue until the objectives that were originally set are achieved,” he added, using Russia’s terminology for the internationally condemned war.

Eastern parts of Ukraine were hit with widespread electricity blackouts on Sunday evening, which President Volodymyr Zelensky said deliberately hit civilian infrastructure. He blamed “Russian terrorists”.

“A total blackout in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, a partial one in the Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy regions,” Zelensky said in a statement on social media.

“No military facilities,” he added. “The goal is to deprive people of light and heat.”

‘Weapon, weapons, weapons’

Local Ukrainian authorities pointed to Russian strikes on their power infrastructure, but some districts reported later that power had been restored.

In Kharkiv region, a Russian strike on a power station killed one employee, Governor Oleg Synegubov said. He added that power had been partially brought back.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said the Russian attacks were an “act of desperation following Russia’s immense losses and retreat in eastern Ukraine”.

The Russian strikes hit 15 locations on Sunday, from Kramatorsk in the east to Mykolaiv in the south and Dnipro in between, Ukraine’s military said.

The blackouts hit regions with an estimated combined population of nine million people — including territory controlled by Russia.

The Russian attacks also disrupted railway services. Ukraine’s national train service announced delays throughout the east including the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

Ukraine had already lost all power from the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

The country’s nuclear energy agency said the final reactor at the plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power station, had been shut off as a safety measure.

The speed of Ukraine’s fightback has apparently caught Russia’s military off-guard, bringing swathes of territory Moscow had controlled for months back into Kyiv’s fold.

Images posted by the Ukrainian military showed crates of munitions and military hardware scattered across territory abandoned by Russian forces.

In his evening address Sunday, Zelensky praised the soldiers who had “liberated hundreds of our cities and villages… and most recently Balakliya, Izyum and Kupiansk”.

Around Balakliya, one of the first towns to be retaken by Ukrainian troops, AFP journalists saw evidence of fierce battles, with buildings destroyed or damaged and streets mostly deserted.

The country’s foreign minister used the momentum to appeal to Western allies for more stockpiles of sophisticated weapons.

“Weapons, weapons, weapons have been on our agenda since spring. I am grateful to partners who have answered our call: Ukraine’s battlefield successes are our shared ones,” Dmytro Kuleba said.

Ukraine Recaptures More Ground As Russia Strikes Back

This photograph taken on September 11, 2022, shows a Ukranian soldier standing atop an abandoned Russian tank near a village on the outskirts of Izyum, Kharkiv Region, eastern Ukraine, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. AFP

 

Ukraine forces said Monday their lightning counter-offensive took back more ground in the past 24 hours, as Russia replied with strikes on some of the recaptured ground.

The territorial shifts were one of Russia’s biggest reversals since its forces were turned back from Kyiv in the earliest days of the nearly seven months of fighting, yet Moscow signalled it was no closer to agreeing a negotiated peace.

“Ukraine has turned the tide in its favour, but the current counter-offensive will not end the war,” US think tank Institute for the Study of War tweeted.

Moscow announced air, rocket and artillery attacks on reclaimed areas in the Kharkiv region on Monday, a day after Kyiv said Russian strikes on electricity infrastructure caused power failures.

The retaliatory fire came as Ukraine said forces had recaptured more than 20 additional settlements, claiming “Russian troops are hastily abandoning their positions and fleeing”.

Kyiv had already announced the recapture of the strategic city of Izyum in the country’s east, one of a series of victories claimed against Russia’s army.

Ukraine said on Monday its forces recaptured 500 square kilometres (193 square miles) in the southern Kherson region which were in addition to the huge gains in the east over the weekend.

Moscow conceded having lost territory, which experts saw as a serious blow to its war ambitions, but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saw no prospects for negotiations.

“The special military operation continues and will continue until the objectives that were originally set are achieved,” he added, using Russia’s terminology for the internationally condemned war.

Eastern parts of Ukraine were hit with widespread electricity blackouts on Sunday evening, which President Volodymyr Zelensky said deliberately hit civilian infrastructure. He blamed “Russian terrorists”.

“A total blackout in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, a partial one in the Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy regions,” Zelensky said in a statement on social media.

“No military facilities,” he added. “The goal is to deprive people of light and heat.”

‘Weapon, weapons, weapons’

Local Ukrainian authorities pointed to Russian strikes on their power infrastructure, but some districts reported later that power had been restored.

In Kharkiv region, a Russian strike on a power station killed one employee, Governor Oleg Synegubov said. He added that power had been partially brought back.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said the Russian attacks were an “act of desperation following Russia’s immense losses and retreat in eastern Ukraine”.

The Russian strikes hit 15 locations on Sunday, from Kramatorsk in the east to Mykolaiv in the south and Dnipro in between, Ukraine’s military said.

The blackouts hit regions with an estimated combined population of nine million people — including territory controlled by Russia.

The Russian attacks also disrupted railway services. Ukraine’s national train service announced delays throughout the east including the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

Ukraine had already lost all power from the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

The country’s nuclear energy agency said the final reactor at the plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power station, had been shut off as a safety measure.

The speed of Ukraine’s fightback has apparently caught Russia’s military off-guard, bringing swathes of territory Moscow had controlled for months back into Kyiv’s fold.

Images posted by the Ukrainian military showed crates of munitions and military hardware scattered across territory abandoned by Russian forces.

In his evening address Sunday, Zelensky praised the soldiers who had “liberated hundreds of our cities and villages… and most recently Balakliya, Izyum and Kupiansk”.

Around Balakliya, one of the first towns to be retaken by Ukrainian troops, AFP journalists saw evidence of fierce battles, with buildings destroyed or damaged and streets mostly deserted.

The country’s foreign minister used the momentum to appeal to Western allies for more stockpiles of sophisticated weapons.

“Weapons, weapons, weapons have been on our agenda since spring. I am grateful to partners who have answered our call: Ukraine’s battlefield successes are our shared ones,” Dmytro Kuleba said.

Russia’s military made the surprise announcement Saturday that it was “regrouping” its forces from Kharkiv to the Donetsk region just south to focus its military efforts there.

War In Ukraine: From Invasion To Lightning Counter-Attack

This handout picture released by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence on September 12, 2022, and taken at an undefined location shows a column of tanks of the Ukrainian army during an offensive, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Handout / UKRAINIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENCE / AFP)

 

Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on February 24, sparking the worst conflict in Europe in decades.

Thousands of civilians have been killed in the fighting, which has taken a new turn over the past week, as Ukrainian forces drive Russian forces from key eastern towns in a swift counter-offensive.

– February: invasion –

A picture taken on June 21, 2022 from the town of Lysychansk, shows a large plume of smoke rising on the horizon, behind the town of Severodonetsk, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Anatolii Stepanov / AFP
A picture taken on June 21, 2022 from the town of Lysychansk, shows a large plume of smoke rising on the horizon, behind the town of Severodonetsk, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Anatolii Stepanov / AFP

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin announces a “special military operation” on February 24.

He says this is to protect the Russian-speaking, self-declared separatist republics of Lugansk and Donetsk in the east of Ukraine, whose independence he has just recognised.

He says he wants to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, a former Soviet republic and demands a guarantee it will never join NATO.

A full-scale invasion starts, with air and missile strikes on several cities.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pledges to stay in the capital, Kyiv, to lead the resistance.

The West imposes unprecedented sanctions on Russia. The European Union and the United States send weapons to Ukraine. The aid pledged by Washington rises into the billions.

– March: advances in south but Kyiv holds –

This Maxar satellite image taken and released on February 26, 2022, shows an overview of Russian ground forces near the Kakhovka hydroelectric plant on the Dnieper River in southern Ukraine. The United Nations told Ukraine that it will work to increase humanitarian assistance in the wake of the Russian invasion. Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies / AFP

 

Russian troops attack Ukraine’s south coast, seizing most of Kherson, a strategic region crucial for agriculture and close to the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Moscow’s forces seek to surround Kyiv and take Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv in the northeast. They meet fierce resistance.

A month into the fighting, Russia withdraws from the Kyiv area and the north to focus on the eastern industrial Donbas region (Lugansk and Donetsk), partly held by separatists, along with the south.

– April: war crimes revealed –

Rescuers clear the scene after a building was partialy destroyed as a result of Russian missile hit on a four-storey residential building in Chasiv Yar, Bakhmut District, eastern Ukraine, on July 10, 2022. – At least six people were killed and five others were injured in a Russian strike on an apartment building in Chasiv Yar town, a local official said. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP)

 

On April 2 and 3, the corpses of dozens of civilians are discovered on the streets and in shallow graves in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha, which Russian forces had occupied, sparking an international outcry.

Similar grisly discoveries follow in other northern towns and Kyiv suburbs.

– May: Mariupol falls –

This undated video grab taken from a handout footage published on May 4, 2022 by the Interior Ministry of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) on Telegram appear to show explosions at Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant. EDITOR’S NOTE : AFP hasn’t managed to verify the date of when the video was shot.
Interior Ministry of the Donetsk People’s Republic / AFP

 

Since the start of the war, Russia has besieged and relentlessly bombed the strategic southeastern port city of Mariupol, particularly its vast Azovstal steelworks.

Bodies pile up in cellars where residents hide out for weeks.

On May 21, Russia announces it is in full control of the city, after the Ukrainian troops that held out for weeks at Azovstal surrender.

Sweden and Finland apply to become members of NATO, fearing they could be future targets of Russian aggression.

– June: Donbas battle rages –

People wait for a bus to go in a train station in Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine, on April 7, 2022, as they flee the city in the Donbas region. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

 

In June, all eyes are on the Donbas, where Russia harnesses its superior firepower to take the city of Severodonetsk after one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

Shortly after they take the neighbouring city of Lysychansk, as Ukraine pleads for more heavy weapons from the West.

– July: grain unblocked, gas supplies cut –

Malta-flagged bulk carrier M/V Rojen vessel, carrying tons of corn, leaves the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk, before heading to Teesport in the United Kingdom, on August 5, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by OLEKSANDR GIMANOV / AF

 

On July 22, Kyiv and Moscow signed a deal to resume grain exports from Ukraine, Europe’s breadbasket, in a bid to relieve a global food crisis caused by Russia’s blockade of the country’s ports.

Ten days later, the first official shipment of grain since the invasion leaves Odessa with 26,000 tonnes of maize on board.

The breakthrough on grain, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, is overshadowed by the escalating gas dispute between Russia and Europe.

Russian energy giant Gazprom slashes its supply to Europe through the Nord Stream pipeline before turning off the tap altogether, prompting a spike in gas prices and fears of shortages this winter.

– August: nuclear fears –

In this file photo taken on May 1, 2022, A Russian serviceman patrols the territory of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar. Kyiv on August 8, 2022, called for the establishment of a demilitarised zone around the nuclear power station in east Ukraine, where recent fighting with Russian forces has raised fears of a nuclear accident. (Photo by Andrey BORODULIN / AFP) /

 

In August, concerns mount over the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine. Constant shelling of the area raises the spectre of a nuclear disaster.

UN inspectors arrive at Zaporizhzhia — Europe’s largest nuclear power plant — on September 1 and call for a security zone to be set up around it.

As the US and EU step up their supplies of heavy weapons, Kyiv launches a major offensive to retake the city of Kherson in the south.

– September: Lightning counter-offensive –

This general view shows a burning fire at a power station in Kharkiv, late September 11, 2022, following a missile strike amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Yevhen TITOV / AFP)

 

On Sunday, Ukraine claims it has retaken more than 3,000 square kilometres (1,158 square miles) of terrain in a second, lightning counter-offensive around Kharkiv in the northeast which appeared to catch Russia off guard.

Kyiv says the area includes the key city of Izyum and accuses retreating Russian forces of targeting the electricity grid, causing massive power cuts in the east.

On Monday, the military says it recaptured 20 more settlements in 24 hours.

The reaction in Moscow is muted but a map released by the defence ministry confirms a major withdrawal from the Kharkiv region.

-AFP