Ukraine recaptures 2,000 km to the east and forces Russian troops to withdraw just 200 days into invasion

Ukrainian counteroffensive subdues Russia and deals a blow to the war

photo_camera AFP/UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE - Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelenski looks at a map during a visit to a Ukrainian army position

Ukraine has struck a blow just 200 days into the Russian invasion. The blitzkrieg offensive to the east, hatched by the Ukrainian army since early September with the help of US intelligence and Western arms shipments, has served to recapture at least thirty positions in the Kharkov region and dislodge Russian troops, who are now fighting a retreat. A new tactical "reorganisation" of forces, according to the contested Russian Defence Ministry. 

The reality is that the Ukrainian counter-attack is devastating. In just a few days, Kiev's forces have pocketed 2,000 km of territory, according to President Volodymir Zelensky's account. Among the towns recaptured are Kupiansk and Izium, two strategic enclaves that have served Russia as a logistical centre for supplying its forces. In Izum, in fact, the Russians had their main base of operations, now in Ukrainian hands. 

"The Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Kharkov oblast is overwhelming Russian forces and collapsing the Russian axis in northern Donbas," certifies the analysis of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the US military research centre that has been monitoring the Russian invasion of Ukraine since 24 February, when hostilities began. Satellite and network images, as well as drip-feed reports from the local population, confirm the latest movements unreservedly. 

J谩rkov

What the Ukrainian forces have achieved in the last few hours is historically unprecedented. The magnitude of the advance, pending further results, marks a 180-degree turn in the course of the conflict. Ukrainian troops have confirmed that, while maintaining fluid Western arms and military support, they have the capacity to dislodge the invading forces. The facts also indicate that the Russian army is depleted. Although the scenario is unpredictable and could change in a matter of days or weeks, the Ukrainian side's chances of victory have skyrocketed. 

Kiev's strategy was based on disinformation. In an attempt to distract Moscow, it trumpeted that its forces were preparing a counter-offensive in the southern region of Kherson - whose eponymous capital was the first city to fall into Russian hands. Russian soldiers stationed there, however, saw nothing to indicate that a new counteroffensive was about to take place. In fact, the Ukrainian army attacked from the north, an unexpected move. 

Even the Russian Defence Ministry confirmed the withdrawal, but in other words. "A three-day operation of organised withdrawal and transfer of the Izum group of troops to the territory of the Donetsk People's Republic has been carried out," said Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman for the ministry headed by Sergey Shoigou. For his part, the head of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic, Denis Pushilin, acknowledged on Sunday in statements reported by the Russian state agency TASS that "the situation on the front line is tense but under control". 

"The Russian Defence Ministry's inability to admit the failures in the Kharkov oblast and to effectively establish reporting conditions is collapsing the Russian news space," the ISW stresses. The events have caught the Kremlin unawares and it still lacks any halfway credible justification. The unmitigated defeat has eroded Vladimir Putin's leadership, which is beginning to be questioned domestically. His exposure as the main architect of the 'special military operation' on Ukrainian soil, which he has led from minute one, prevents him from apportioning blame. 

The pressure on the Kremlin is further increased by the statements of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. In his Telegram account, the head of the Chechen Republic lashed out particularly harshly at the Russian army, which he accused of making serious mistakes. "If there are no changes in the strategy of the special military operation today or tomorrow, I would have to talk to the leadership of the Ministry of Defence and the leadership of the country to explain to them the real situation on the ground," he said. 

The Ukrainian gesture is forcing the Kremlin to move fast. Russian media claim that reinforcements are already being sent to Kharkov to reverse the gains. In any case, Russian troops maintain their occupation over a fifth of Ukraine, over the Donbas, from where they intend to gain a foothold. The coming weeks will be decisive. 

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