Russo-Ukrainian War: Live news updates

KYIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian forces entered Russia’s key military stronghold of Izium on Saturday, continuing their rapid advance through the northeast and beginning a dramatic new phase in the conflict. The war lasted for more than six months.

“Today Izium was liberated,” the city mayor, Valeriy Marchenko, said in an interview. While he has yet to reach the city, he said he has contacted the police and emergency services are working to eliminate possible hazards before people can return. again.

The Russian Defense Ministry – which a day earlier said it was working to reinforce defensive positions in the region – confirmed on Saturday that it had withdrawn its forces from Izium, six months after its forces They besieged and then captured the city. . In a statement, it presented the retreat as a pre-planned move to bolster its efforts in the east, where its troops had been bogged down for weeks.

Maintaining control of towns and cities was sometimes shown to be unnecessary during the war, and it was not immediately clear how secure Ukraine’s control of Izium was and whether Russia could afford it. What efforts can be made to regain it?

But the loss of Izium – a strategically important railway hub that the Russians captured in the spring after a bloody battle that lasted weeks – could mark a turning point in the war, capped only by defeat. Russia’s humiliating defeat around the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in the spring.

The first signs that Russian forces would retreat rather than fight appeared late on Friday.

“Last night, the Russians planted a white flag near the station,” Yevhen, a Ukrainian officer involved in the liberation of Izium, said in a phone interview. “There was fighting in the streets all night.” He asked to be identified only by his name out of concern for his security.

Much of Ukraine’s attack in the Kharkiv region, where Izium is located, is shrouded in uncertainty amid the lack of official confirmation, and military analysts warn that it’s an evolving situation. Fast variable can change hourly.

But the blitzkrieg in the northeast of the country reshaped what had become a war of attrition. Within days, Russia’s front lines had collapsed, Moscow’s troops fled, and village after village once again appeared beneath the yellow and blue Ukrainian banners – like town Kupiansk just north of Izium, lying on important supply routes to the eastern front.

The Security Service of Ukraine posted a photo on Telegram shows members of special forces in Kupiansk.

“We go further!” articles read, According to news agency Ukrinform.

However, as Ukrainian officials held the event cautiously, some pro-Kremlin military bloggers expressed anger and frustration at the rapid developments.

A Russian military blogger, named Rusich, who has 278,000 followers on Telegram and claims to be in the city on Friday, wrote that Izium’s surrender was a “small step back” and urged followers to Don’t “desperate”.

With the Russians leaving the towns and cities they had beaten to capture, the costs of their months-long occupation were just beginning to be noticed. Ukrainian officials say they have sent investigators to the newly liberated towns to begin gathering evidence of Russian war crimes.

In his overnight speech, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said the army had recaptured more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region.

“Actions to check and secure the territory continue,” he said. “We are slowly taking control of the new settlements.”

The eastern offensive, which began earlier this week, has wiped out Russian forces from more than 2,500 square kilometers of land in the Kharkiv region as of Friday, according to an estimate by Institute for War Studiesa Washington-based consulting organization.

“There’s still a lot we don’t know about the attack, but it’s clear that it was planned by Ukrainian forces,” said Rob Lee, a military analyst at the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies. well planned and executed”. “It looks like a very effective combined arms operation with tanks, motorized infantry, special operations forces, air defense systems, artillery and other systems.”

Ukrainian and Western officials warn that offensive operations are in the early days, that the situation is complex and that any benefits are not yet assured. Some military analysts warn that Ukraine’s rapid advance could leave it stretched thin and vulnerable to counterattacks.

In addition to the counter-offensive in the northeast, Ukraine has a push in the south to retake territory in the Kherson region.

Mr. Marchenko, the mayor of Izium, said that about 12,000 residents remained in the city and were in dire need of humanitarian supplies.

He said he hopes that residents who have fled can start to return in three or four days but that devastation awaits them.

“There isn’t a single residential building that hasn’t been damaged,” the mayor said.

“Heating is the biggest problem,” he added. “I doubt if we can restore heating before winter.”

Oleksii Reznikoff, Ukraine’s defense minister, did not comment on the specific increase but at a conference in Kyiv on Saturday, he said that Russian troops were on the run.

“The Russian army will run, and they will believe me, because today we are destroying logistics chains, warehouses, etc.,” he said. “And the question will arise: ‘And where should they go?’ It will be like an avalanche.”

One defense, he said, will shake and it will collapse, and then another.

Ivan Nechepurenko and Thomas Gibbons-Neff contribution report.

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