RUSSIA/UKRAINE: Ukraine worked on Wednesday to stabilise and retake territory reclaimed from Russia-occupied forces in a rapid counter-offensive measure and reiterated plans to win back all occupied regions, as U.S. President Joe Biden predicted a “long haul”.
In a Tuesday evening address, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said around 8,000 sq km (3,100 square miles) have been liberated by Ukrainian forces so far this month, supposedly all in the northeastern region of Kharkiv.
“Stabilisation measures” had been completed in about half of that territory, Zelensky said, “and across a liberated area of about the same size, stabilisation measures are still ongoing”. As per President Zelensky’s confirmation, the total area reclaimed is roughly the size of the Greek island of Crete.
When questioned whether Ukraine has reached a turning point in the six-month war and reshaped the nature of the crisis in its favour, Biden said it was hard to tell.
“It’s clear the Ukrainians have made significant progress. But I think it’s going to be a long haul.”
The United States, which has heavily aided Ukraine with billions of dollars of weapons and other military ammunitions, has said that the Pentagon is likely to announce a new military aid package in “coming days”.
Moscow suffered one of its most staggering and humiliating losses in the northeast on Saturday, following which Ukrainian troops have actively pushed further to recapture dozens of towns in a stunning turnaround in battleground momentum.
Speaking in the central square of Balakliia, a crucial military supply hub taken by Ukrainian forces late last week, Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said 150,000 people had been liberated from Russian rule in the area.
“The aim is to liberate the Kharkiv region and beyond – all the territories occupied by the Russian Federation,” Malyar said on the road to Balakliia, which lies 74 km (46 miles) southeast of Kharkiv.
Groups of Ukrainian soldiers, appeared jovial and relaxed as they smoked, and chatted beside the road to Balakliia, which was littered with the remnants of charred vehicles and destroyed military hardware.
One soldier was stretched out on the top of a tank like it was his living room sofa.
With Russian forces out of the way, and Ukraine’s flag flying in the city once again, people clamoured for supplies and spoke of what they had endured under the red rule.
“I was walking away … when I saw an armoured personnel carrier coming onto the square with a Ukrainian flag: my heart just tightened up and I began to sob,” Mariya Tymofiyeva, a 43-year-old resident said, her voice trembling with emotion.
Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Syehubov said authorities were trying to record humanitarian crimes committed by Russians during their occupation of the area, and recover the bodies of victims.
“We’re asking everyone around about all the places of burial which can be found,” he said.
Meanwhile, Moscow denies allegations of any horrific crimes committed by Russian forces ever since Putin launched a “special military operation” on February 24.
Also Read: Ukraine Has Recaptured 6,000 sq km from Russia, Says Zelenskyy