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‘There is no place in Ukraine for occupiers,’ says Zelensky as Russia ’rounds up’ troops

  • Ukraine launched a rapid counter-offensive in the eastern region of Kharkiv.
  • Russia announced that it was withdrawing its troops.
  • Vasylenkovo ​​and Artemivka have been released, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

Russia said it was withdrawing troops from Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region as Kyiv announced massive territorial gains in its lightning counteroffensive.

A Moscow-backed separatist leader in the east said Russian forces were fighting “tough” battles against Kyiv troops in several parts of the eastern Donetsk region.

A Ukrainian official also said Kyiv troops were closing in on the eastern town of Lysychansk, captured by Russian troops after fierce artillery battles in July.

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Moscow’s late Saturday announcement of the rollback, alongside Kyiv’s claim to have entered the city of Kupiansk, are the most significant changes in the dynamics of the battlefield after months of fighting in eastern Ukraine dominated by Moscow.

“A decision has been taken to regroup Russian troops stationed in the Balakliya and Izyum regions to strengthen efforts along the Donetsk front,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement.

News of the withdrawal came just after Ukrainian special forces posted images on social media showing officers in camouflage uniforms with automatic weapons “in Kupyansk”, a city of around 27,000 people.

Ukrainian troops have also liberated Vasylenkovo ​​and Artemivka in the Kharkiv region, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening speech on Saturday.

He said:

In recent days, the Russian army has shown us its best (side) – its back.

“There is no place in Ukraine for occupiers. There never will be,” he added.

Speaking separately to the annual European Strategy Forum in Yalta, Zelensky said that Russia is “doing everything to break the resistance of Ukraine, Europe and the world during the 90 days of this (coming) winter. “, counting on a possible weakening of Western support for Kyiv. due to rising energy prices and heating problems.

“It’s their last argument,” he said.

Observers expect Ukrainian forces to make further gains in the Kharkiv region, which borders Russia and is either controlled by Moscow-backed authorities or bombarded by its artillery for months.

There was no official confirmation that troops from Kyiv had also driven Russian forces out of Izyum – a major staging ground for Moscow’s war effort with a pre-invasion population of around 45,000.

The missile that was launched by Russia is believed to have killed more than 30 people and injured more than 100 in a Russian attack on a train station in eastern Ukraine.

But footage flooding social media appeared to show Ukrainian forces in the city and Russian observers of the conflict said there were initial reports that Moscow’s military had already withdrawn.

“Ukrainian troops are advancing in eastern Ukraine, liberating more towns and villages. Their courage, coupled with Western military support, is yielding astonishing results,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko.

He added:

It is crucial to continue to send arms to Ukraine. To defeat Russia on the battlefield is to win peace in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s push appears to have caught Russian troops largely off guard.

State media released images on Friday of Russian tanks, artillery and support vehicles heading towards Kharkiv in columns on dirt roads – an attempt to send reinforcements to the area.

But a day later, Russia announced a three-day operation to redeploy its forces, moving away from Kharkiv towards the industrial region of Donbass further south.

Capturing urban centers like Kupyansk and Izyum would deal a serious blow to Moscow’s ability to resupply its positions on the eastern front line, and could see Russia’s hold on the east severely diminished.

STARYCHI, UKRAINE - January 28: Zinovy ​​Tuzhansky,

A Ukrainian instructor showing soldiers the operation of the NLAW ATGM anti-tank missile system earlier this year in Starychi, Ukraine.

In a village captured by the advancing Ukrainians, electricity pylons were knocked down, cables lay on the ground and houses were ripped open, AFP journalists reported.

On the road to the recaptured town of Balakliya, journalists saw abandoned Russian armor painted with the letter “Z” – a symbol of the invasion of Russia.

Ukrainian troops were also advancing along parts of the southern front line, a spokesman said on Saturday, in some areas for tens of kilometers into territory captured by Russian troops at the start of the invasion.

Russian news agencies reported six large explosions in Nova Kakhovka, a town held by Russian troops in the southern region of Kherson.

In the eastern region of Donetsk, rebel leader Denis Pushilin said the situation in the town of Lyman was “very difficult” and that there was also fighting in “a number of other localities”, in particular in the northern part of the region.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock arrived in the Ukrainian capital on Saturday for a surprise visit, which she said was meant to demonstrate Berlin’s support for Ukraine.

Ukrainian soldiers stand next to a destroyed Russi

Ukrainian soldiers stand next to a destroyed Russian tank on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine.

It came a week after Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal traveled to Berlin where he repeated Kyiv’s call to arms.

Baerbock pledged to continue “weapons deliveries, and with humanitarian and financial support”.

In recent weeks, Germany has sent an array of weapons to Kyiv, complementing other Western-supplied weapons that observers say have hurt Russia’s supply and command capabilities.

Baerbock’s visit follows that of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during which he pledged a military package worth nearly $3 billion for Ukraine.

Shmyhal also criticized on Saturday a “passive attitude” of the International Monetary Fund in the face of Ukraine’s request for aid to help its economy, hard hit by the Russian invasion.

He spoke at the Yalta forum, where Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba also said India had “benefited from our sacrifices” due to Western sanctions on Russian oil.

India has the option of buying Russian oil at “a very low price” because “someone is dying in Ukraine and someone in Europe is applying sanctions”, Kuleba said.

People walk past a destroyed building in Ch

People walk past a destroyed building in Chernihiv, Ukraine.

However, Russian forces were still inflicting serious damage with a bombing campaign in the city of Kharkiv and the industrial region of Donbass to the east.

Russian shelling Saturday on the Kholodnogirskiy district of the city of Kharkiv left at least one dead and two injured, said the head of the region, Oleg Synegubov.

Earlier, Pavlo Kyrylenko, the head of the Donetsk region, which is part of Donbass, said Russian shelling left two people dead.

Concerns have also risen in recent days over renewed shelling near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the south of the country.