Ukraine defeats Russian forces in the Northeast, forced to withdraw

KHARKIV, Ukraine – Stunned by a go fast Because Ukrainian forces occupy more than 1,000 square miles of land and are an important military hub, Russia admitted on Sunday that it had lost almost all of the northern Kharkiv region after a flash attack raised suspicions. on the premise – widely held in Moscow and parts of the West – that Ukraine can never defeat Russia.

Russia’s withdrawal from the large swath of Ukrainian territory it occupied earlier in the summer has rattled Kremlin cheerleaders and amplified voices in the West demanding more weapons be sent to Ukraine so that This can win.

Victory for Ukraine remains uncertain, especially with Ukraine’s second offensive in the south making less progress much more quickly. Russian forces were dug into fortified defensive positions near the Black Sea port city of Kherson, forcing the Ukrainian military to pay dearly for every piece of territory it recaptured.

However, the pace of Ukraine’s progress over the weekend in the northeast – an area used as a stronghold by Russia – muted Kremlin cheerleaders. It has also weakened arguments in places like Germany that supplying more and more better weapons to Ukraine will only lead to a long and bloody stalemate against the Russian military. Decide.

Late on Sunday, in a strike that Ukrainian officials condemned as fittingly to its losses, Moscow attacked infrastructure in Kharkiv, leaving many civilians without electricity and water. President Volodymyr Zelensky said there was a “total blackout” in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions.

“No military facilities,” he wrote on Twitter. “The purpose is to deprive people of light and heat.”

Russia’s retreat to the northeast is the biggest embarrassment to President Vladimir V. Putin’s larger and better-equipped forces since the push to capture Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, was pushed back. back at the start of the invasion. Against the backdrop of heavy casualties, logistical problems, and a drop in Russian military morale, its performance has angered the people. pro-Kremlin bloggers and Putin loyalists, creating new challenges for the Russian leader.

Among them is the downfall of a popular assumption, both inside and outside Russia, that Russia will inevitably triumph in the end. On Sunday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry announced that its forces had reached a checkpoint near the Russian border in northeastern Ukraine, Hoptivka, an assertion that cannot be independently confirmed.

Ukraine’s allies rejoice at Russia’s battlefield defeats.

“Tell me straight,” said Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign minister and one of Ukraine’s most staunch supporters. “Now no one doubts that Ukraine could have eliminated Russia many months ago if they were provided with the necessary equipment from Day 1.”

Speaking at a new conference with his German counterpart, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said, “And so I repeat: The more weapons we get, the quicker we will win and the war will be won. The sooner this war will end.”

Ukraine rose rapidly to follow increased intelligence sharing with the United States, US officials said. During the summer, as they planned a counterattack in the northeast, Ukrainian officials began providing more real-time intelligence to their American counterparts, a change that allowed the United States to provide information. better and more consistent on Russia’s weaknesses, officials said.

American officials hailed Ukraine’s rapid progress as a welcome development. However, senior Pentagon and White House officials called for caution, expressing doubts about the ability of Ukrainian forces to push Russia back to the lines that existed on Feb. days before the invasion. However, they say the progress shows that Russian forces are in significant trouble.

For months now, administration officials have said there is no hope of a diplomatic solution to the war unless Zelensky’s forces regain enough territory to gain the upper hand in any truce or which armistice. But the fear is that if Putin believes he is losing the war, he could deploy unique weapons.

Military analysts are debating whether Ukraine will succeed in the north was the result of an ingenious ruse to redirect Russian power southward. They say a Ukrainian counterattack there that has been telegraphed for weeks may be partly just a rumor.

In a sign of shock and even despair, spreading among the ranks of Russia’s most staunch supporters of war, Ramzan Kadyrov, the powerful leader of Chechnya and a loyalist to Putin, gave criticized the leadership of the Russian Army on Sunday and expressed disappointment over it. performed in northeastern Ukraine.

He said in a social media post that the Russian Defense Ministry had “made a mistake” and that military and national leaders needed to explain the “real situation on the ground”.

But without acknowledging the setbacks, the official Russian government magazine, Rossiskaya Gazeta, issued its main report on the war on Sunday with an account of how the “Kyiv regime” had suffered heavy casualties how. It claimed that more than 4,000 Ukrainian soldiers were killed between Tuesday and Saturday.

And authorities in Moscow presented the move to the northeast as a “regrouping” plan.

The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank in Washington, offers a completely different assessment. In a report, it said Russia’s northern front was “collapsed” and refuted Moscow’s claims that its troops were simply ordered to “regroup”.

The institute said Russian forces “did not conduct a controlled retreat and were in a hurry to flee”.

In Kyiv, the mood is high.

Rumil Khabibulin, an actor, said: “We have been waiting for this for a long time. “My wife, my children, me – all our spirits are lifted. I think it’s a big turning point in the war, and Russia will fall apart.”

However, with nearly all news agencies in Russia under the Kremlin’s control, there is little sign of eroding public support for Mr. affirmation described as a “special military operation”.

Having learned from childhood how Napoleon’s and later Hitler’s armies won battles as far as Moscow only to be finally crushed, many Russians are programmed to believe the official claims that Their country, regardless of the defeat of the moment, is advancing. for the ultimate victory.

Few people know much about Russia’s disastrous 1904-5 war with Japan, which, like the invasion of Ukraine, was fueled by imperial arrogance and contempt for the enemy that Tsar Nicholas II expected to collapse in a “brief, victorious war”. Russia lost most of its navy and suffered a total defeat at the hands of Japan, an humiliation that helped spur Russia’s 1905 revolution.

For the time being, the Kremlin is embroiled in soft denials about the failures and usual business practices of Mr Putin, who, as Russian lines became tense on Saturday in the Kharkiv region, inaugurated a giant Ferris wheel in a park in Moscow. Reports from social networks said the wheel quickly broke, leaving the driver stuck in the air.

After presiding over Saturday’s fireworks festival marking the 875th anniversary of Moscow’s founding, Putin returned to his war in Ukraine on Sunday, when, according to a Kremlin statement, he spoke over phone with French President Emmanuel Macron, their. First conversation since August 19.

While asserting that it caused serious damage to Ukrainian forces, the Defense Ministry in Moscow acknowledged that the fighting did not go as planned. It released a map on Sunday showing that Russian troops have been driven out of almost the entire Kharkiv region and now control only a portion of the land along the Oskil River.

A Russian military blogger, Yuri Podolyaka, reports that Russian forces have been ordered to evacuate the entire area. No orders have been confirmed, but Russian forces, confused by the pace of Ukraine’s advance, are clearly now focused on preventing losses in the vicinity of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Other Russian military bloggers, who often cheer the war effort but also present a less polished realistic picture than the state media, report that Ukraine is now attacking the city. small Lyman, was captured by Russia in May and Russian forces needed reinforcements.

The mayor of Lyman, Oleksandr Zhuravlev, told Ukrainian media that as of Saturday night the fighting was still underway. “The Russian military is still resisting,” he said. “Our flag is not there yet.”

The capture of Lyman would be another serious reversal of fortunes for Russia, whose capture of the city in early summer demonstrated what at the time appeared to be an irreversible campaign and irreversible Russian conquest of the region, including the nearby larger towns of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.

On Sunday, Mr. Zelensky announced that Ukrainian forces had recaptured Chkalovskea village in the Kharkiv region located roughly halfway between Izium, an important Russian military center recaptured by Ukraine on Saturday, and the city of Kharkiv.

Proposing that the war still has room to run, Serhiy Grabskyi, a former Ukrainian army colonel and war commentator for the new Ukrainian media, said that when the army fell into disarray , as the Russians do now, they tended to terrify the soldiers they encountered. when they run away. “They will sow dismay to other armies,” he said.

But reaching too far could leave the Ukrainian Army stretched thin and vulnerable, Mr. Grabskyi warned. “Now – and it’s painful for me to say as a Ukrainian – we have to decide where to stop,” he said.

Andrew E. Kramer reported from Kharkiv, and Andrew Higgins from Warsaw. Report contributed by Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Jeffrey Gettleman from Kyiv; Maria Varennikova from Kharkiv; Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia; and David E. Sanger from Washington.

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