RUSSIA/UKRAINE: President Volodymyr Zelensky reported that Ukrainian forces have now retaken vast swathes of land, more than 6,000 sq km (2,317 sq miles), from Russian annexation in September, particularly in the east and the south.
Russia has suffered great losses in men and ammunition as it has admitted to losing key cities in the north-eastern Kharkiv region, in what is described by some military experts as a potential breakthrough in the war.
Russia’s initial zeal and military mileage that had marked the early days of the “special military operation” in Ukraine are now slowly dwindling as Ukraine continues to launch stealthy and deadly counter-offensives to reclaim what was once its own.
Moscow has tried to cover up what many call its losses by describing its recent withdrawal of troops from the region as a “regrouping”. The Kremlin has maintained that the particular rearrangement and relocation of troops focus on Ukraine’s east’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
That claim has been widely ridiculed even in Russia, with many social media users describing the stated pull-out as “shameful”.
Mason Clark of the US-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said this was “a complete rout” of the Russian troops, who were forced to abandon lots of equipment.
Meanwhile, the BBC’s James Waterhouse said it was one of the most significant Russian military retreats since its failed campaign near the capital city of Kyiv in late March.
Speaking out later on Monday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Ukrainian forces had made “significant progress” in their counter-offensive but added that it was too soon to rule out any possibilities of a deadlier Russian retaliation.
“The Russians maintain significant forces in Ukraine as well as equipment, arms and munitions. They continue to use it indiscriminately against not just the Ukrainian armed forces but civilians and civilian infrastructure as we’ve seen,” Mr Blinken said.
Consequently, President Zelensky appealed to his nation in a routine late-night video address on Monday and gave updates on the new developments in the war, lauding the troops’ victories against Russian aggression. He said, “From the beginning of September until today, our warriors have already liberated more than 6,000 sq km of the territory of Ukraine – in the east and south”.
“The movement of our troops continues,” he said.
The new developments in Ukrainian gains have been rapid. Last Thursday, President Zelensky said Ukrainian forces had retaken 1,000 sq km, but by Sunday, that figure had tripled to 3,000 sq km.
Mr Zelensky expressed his deep gratitude to several of Ukraine’s brigades involved in the counter-offensive, describing their fighters as “true heroes”.
However, he did not reveal the exact details of which Ukrainian cities and villages had been liberated.
Russia’s military earlier admitted that its troops had to leave the key cities of Balakliya, Izyum and Kupiansk in the Kharkiv region. Russia now controls only a small eastern part of the region.
Slower yet consistent advances have been reportedly made by Ukrainian troops in the southern Kherson region, which borders Crimea – a Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia back in 2014.
UK defence officials say the Ukrainian army’s recent successes will have “significant implications” for Russia’s overall operational design.
However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed no Russian plans to slow down the military battlements until “all the tasks that were initially set” have been successfully achieved in Ukraine.
Russia says its forces have been carrying out strikes in those areas retaken by Ukraine recently.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict, which continues to span over six months and counting, began as part of Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, intending to protect Russian-speaking minorities and take out staunch nationalists in the country.
The war has heavily compromised not merely millions of lives and property but severely affected essential networks relating to oil and fuel supply, especially in European countries, all of which are reeling under dire fuel shortages.
As Ukraine continues to jolt Russian aggression with counter-offensive measures, without any signs of stopping or slowing down, the war will likely continue well into the end of this year.
Meanwhile, that possibility paints a dreary picture for most Europeans who are figuring out ways to battle the acute fuel crisis spurned by the Russian-Ukraine war.