Russian grip on northeastern Ukraine collapses after kyiv supply line is severed and Zaphorizhzhia nuclear power plant shuts down
Moscow has abandoned its main stronghold in northeastern Ukraine in a sudden collapse of one of the main front lines of the war after Ukrainian forces made a rapid advance.
- Ukraine’s foreign minister says advances show Ukraine can defeat Russia
- Russian forces had used Izium as a logistics base
- The head of the Russian administration in Kharkiv told residents to evacuate the province
Ukrainian forces pushed up to 50 kilometers beyond Russian lines this week and recaptured dozens of towns in a spectacular counteroffensive.
The rapid fall of three key towns – Izium, Kupyansk and Balaklyia – in Kharkiv province was Moscow’s worst defeat since its troops were pushed back from the capital Kyiv in March.
The counteroffensive comes as the state agency in charge of Russia’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine said operations at the plant had been completely halted on Sunday.
The agency said it disconnected the plant’s sixth unit from the power grid.
Speaking about the success of the counter-offensive, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that the supply of weapons from the west is bearing fruit.
“We showed that we could defeat the Russian army,” he said.
“I repeat, the more weapons we receive, the sooner we will win, the sooner this war will end and we can focus on other goals.”
This could prove a watershed moment in the 6-month war, with thousands of Russian soldiers abandoning stockpiles of ammunition and equipment as they flee.
Russian forces used Izium as a logistical base for one of their main campaigns – a months-long assault from the north on the adjacent Donbass region comprising Donetsk and Luhansk.
Russian news agency TASS quoted the Defense Ministry as saying it had ordered troops to leave the surrounding area and step up operations elsewhere in nearby Donetsk.
The head of Russia’s administration in Kharkiv told residents to evacuate the province and flee to Russia to “save lives”, TASS reported.
Witnesses described traffic jams with people leaving Russian-held territory.
Advances cut Russian supply lines
The Russian withdrawal was announced by the Ukrainian leadership.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address on Saturday that Ukraine’s armed forces had liberated about 2,000 square kilometers of territory since the start of a counteroffensive against Russia earlier this month.
In a video released by his office, Mr Zelenskyy said it was “a good decision for [the Russians] run showing their backs”.
Ukrainian officials had previously stopped confirming they had taken over Izium, but Andriy Yermak, Mr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, posted a photo of troops on his outskirts and tweeted a grape emoji. The name of the city means “grape”.
The Russian army claimed the title of “the fastest army in the world…keep running!” Yermak then wrote on Twitter.
The announcement of the Russian withdrawal came hours after Ukrainian troops captured the northern town of Kupyansk, the only rail hub supplying the entire Russian frontline in northeastern Ukraine.
On Saturday morning, Ukrainian officials released photos of their troops raising the country’s blue and yellow flag in front of the city hall in Kupyansk.
This left thousands of Russian troops abruptly cut off from supplies along a front that saw some of the most intense battles of the war.
There were signs of trouble for Russia elsewhere along its remaining positions on the Eastern Front, with pro-Russian officials acknowledging difficulties elsewhere.
Ukrainian armed forces continue to advance in different areas along the front, Zelenskyy said.
“Russia is backing down”
A witness in Valuyki, a town in Russia’s Belgorod region near the border with Ukraine, said he saw families from Kupyansk eating and sleeping in their cars along the roads.
“I was at the market today and saw a lot of people from Kupiansk. They say half the town has been taken by the Ukrainian army and Russia is withdrawing…the fighting is getting closer” , said the witness.
Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said authorities were providing food and medical aid to people queuing at a crossing point to Russia.
Senator Andrey Turchak of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party reported more than 400 vehicles at the border.
Russian rocket fire hit the city of Kharkiv on Saturday night, killing at least one person and damaging several homes, in an upsurge in shelling since the Kyiv counteroffensive, Ukrainian officials said.
None of the Battleground accounts could be independently verified.
There were signs that Ukraine could capitalize on the disarray with assaults along other areas of the eastern front.
Denis Pushilin, head of the separatist administration installed by Russia in Donetsk province, said the situation in Liman, east of Izium, “remains quite difficult – like in a series of settlements in the north of the Republic”.
Further east, Ukrainian officials have hinted at a possible attempt to retake Lysychansk, which Moscow seized in July after weeks of fighting in one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
Ukrainian regional governor Serhiy Gaidai was quoted in the media as saying that Ukrainian troops had been spotted on the outskirts of the city.
The town’s name means ‘fox’, and after his tweet of grapes, Andriy Yermak, Mr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, tweeted a fox emoji.