Russia admits it is RETREATING as Ukrainian offensive make stunning gains to capture key towns and Russian lines collapse around Kharkiv leaving Putin facing humiliating defeat

  • Russian lines are crumbling as Ukraine makes huge advances in the east
  • Ukraine reportedly has captured Izium and Kupiansk and is attacking Limán
  • Russian MoD has admitted their troops are in full retreat in the Kharkiv region
  • They described the demoralising collapse and retreat as a ‘re-grouping’ 

The Russian lines in the east of Ukraine are crumbling as Ukrainian forces make stunning gains to liberate their homeland, with the Russia Ministry of Defence admitting the scale of the collapse. 

The offensive south of Kharkiv, which began on Tuesday, took the thinly defended Russian lines by surprise, leading to reports of mass retreats, mass surrenders and mass casualties that the Russian MoD has dressed up as a ‘re-grouping.’

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Saturday that troops would be regrouped from the Balakliya and Izyum areas to Ukraine’s occupied Donetsk region. 

Izyim was a major base for Russian forces in the Kharkiv region and earlier this week social media videos showed residents of Balakliya joyfully cheering as Ukrainian troops moved in. 

Konashenkov said the Russian move is being made ‘in order to achieve the stated goals of the special military operation to liberate Donbas,’ one of the eastern Ukraine regions that Russia has declared sovereign. 

Ukrainian soldiers hold a flag at a rooftop in Kupiansk as their lightning offensive causes Russian lines to collapse

Ukrainian solders pose for a photo beneath the sign of Izium, a key logistics hub and prize capture

Ukrainian servicemen raises his fist aloft in victory as his unit drives near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region

The claim of pullback to concentrate on Donetsk is similar to the justification Russia gave for pulling back its forces from the Kyiv region earlier this year when they failed to take the Ukrainian capital.

The news is confirmation of stunning battlefield successes for the Ukrainian armed forces, having liberated almost a thousand square miles of Russian-held territory, according to the Washington DC-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War.

The territory includes the key strategic and logistical hubs in Izium and the town of Kupiansk that will in reality imperil Russia’s entire position in the Donbas.

Ukrainian officials earlier Saturday claimed major gains in a counteroffensive against Russian forces in the Kharkiv region, saying Ukrainian troops had cut off vital supplies to Izyum. 

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko also said that Ukrainian troops had retaken Kupiansk, a town along the main supply route to Izyum, long a focus on the Russian front line and the site of heavy artillery and other fighting. 

Nikolenko tweeted a photo showing soldiers in front of what he said was a government building in Kupiansk, 45 miles north of Izyum. 

The latest reports indicate fighting around the town of Limán, just 25 miles from the twin cities of Lysychnask and Severodonetsk that fell to Russian forces at the start of July after a long, grinding battle.

Denis Pushilin, the head of the separatist Donestk People’s Republic, reported on the fighting amid rumours that he had fled Donetsk.

The situation in Limán ‘remains quite difficult,’ he said in a video post from a moving car. ‘Just like a number of other locations in the north of the republic.’ 

And Serhiy Haidai, the Russia-installed governor of the Luhansk region, said that Ukrainian units had even reached the outskirts of Lysychansk itself.

‘Lysychnask, a great Ukrainian city. There will be a lot of reconstruction work,’ he said in a cryptic message. 

A commanding officer of an anti-air unit of Ukraine’s Armed Forces loads a rocket launcher in his SUV as they prepare to support infantry in liberating Balakliya in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, Sept 8

A captured Russian tank near Balakliya, Kharkiv region, after Russian forces ran away and abandoned their weapons and equipment

This morning, Kyiv soldiers were pictured with their own nation’s flag as they claim to have retaken Kupyansk – something Russia disputes

There are even unconfirmed reports of Ukrainian forces entering Donetsk international airport, the subject of two separate battles between Ukrainian and pro-Moscow forces in 2014 and 2015.

Earlier Saturday, the British Ministry of Defence told reporters that Russian forces were likely taken by surprise by the speed, scale and ferocity of the Ukrainian assault.

‘The sector was only lightly held and Ukrainian units have captured or surrounded several towns,’ the British military said, adding that the loss of Kupiansk would greatly affect Russian supply lines.

The Institute for the Study of War said it appeared that ‘disorganised Russian forces (were) caught in the rapid Ukrainian advance.’ They cited social media images of apparent Russian prisoners seized in the advance around Izyum and surrounding towns.

The same report, now seemingly out of date, said Ukrainian forces ‘may collapse Russian positions around Izyum if they sever Russian ground lines of communication’ north and south of the town.

Vladislav Sokolov, head of the Russian-appointed local administration, said on social media that authorities in Izyum have started evacuating residents to Russia.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine comes amid an ongoing offensive around Kherson in the south. Analysts suggest Russia may have taken soldiers from the east to reinforce around Kherson, offering the Ukrainians the opportunity to strike a weakened front line.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told the television channel Ukraina that the Russians had no food or fuel for their troops in the area as Kyiv had cut off their supply lines.

‘It will be like an avalanche,’ he said, predicting a Russian fallback. ‘One line of defence will shake and it will fall.’

A Russian tank destroyed by Ukrainian forces as they moved to recapture Balakliya earlier in the week

The Ukrainian military was more circumspect about the reported gains, claiming Saturday to have taken ‘more than 1,000 square kilometres’ (386 square miles) from pro-Kremlin forces this week. It said ‘in some areas, units of the Defence Forces have penetrated the enemy’s defences to a depth of 50 kilometres,’ matching the British assessment, but did not disclose geographical details.

Officials in Kyiv have for weeks been tight-lipped about plans for a counteroffensive to retake territory overrun by Russia early in the war, urging residents to refrain from sharing information on social media.

However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday that Ukrainian troops had reclaimed more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region since the start of the counteroffensive.

‘We are gradually taking control over more settlements, returning the Ukrainian flag and protection for our people,’ Zelenskyy said.

He spoke after the Ukrainian governor of Kharkiv reported that the national flag had been raised over Balakliia, a town recaptured by Ukrainian troops on Thursday following six months of Russian occupation.

‘Balakliia is Ukraine! Today, together with the military, led by the commander of the Ground Forces Oleksandr Syrskyy, we raised the Ukrainian flag,’ governor Oleh Syniehubov wrote on Telegram.

Elsewhere, Ukrainian emergency services reported that a 62-year-old woman was killed in a Russian missile strike in the Kharkiv region when her home was flattened overnight.

Syniehubov also accused Moscow of pummelling settlements retaken by Kyiv. He said in a Telegram post that five civilians were hospitalized in the Izyum district, while nine others suffered injuries elsewhere in the region.

In the embattled Donbas region south of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian governor said civilians were killed and wounded overnight by Russian shelling near the city of Bakhmut, a key target of the stalled Russian offensive there. Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram that two people died and two more suffered injuries in Bakhmut and the neighboring village of Yahidne.

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock arrived in Kyiv on an unannounced visit Saturday, saying that Europe would not tire of helping Ukraine despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to raise the pressure by withholding energy supplies from European Union nations.

Baerbock said Germany will assist Ukraine in finding and removing mines and other unexploded ordnance left by Russian troops in areas where they have been pushed back by Ukrainian forces.

Despite the gains made by Ukraine’s armed forces, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the head of NATO warned Friday that Ukraine’s fight against Russia appears set to drag on for months. 

Blinken said the war was entering a critical period and urged Ukraine’s Western backers to keep up their support through what could be a difficult winter.

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