Updated Sep 12, 2022 - World

Ukraine furthers gains in Kharkiv region following major breakthrough

Ukrainian forces in Kharkiv
Destroyed armored vehicles litter the road in Balakliya, Kharkiv region, on Sept. 10. Photo: Juan Barreto/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian forces continued advancing into the Kharkiv region's northern, southern and eastern flanks, Ukraine's military chief Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said on Telegram Sunday.

The latest: As Ukrainian officials reported Russia's forces responded by attacking infrastructure including power stations and causing widespread blackouts, Russian nationalists were calling on President Vladimir Putin to make immediate changes after his troops retreated from most of the Kharkiv region, per Reuters.

A tweet by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemning Russia's military attacks on infrastructure that led to blackouts, affecting civilians.
Photo: President Volodymyr Zelensky/Twitter

What they're saying: The Russian Defense Ministry released a map during a briefing on Sunday indicating that its forces' now control only a small amount of territory on the eastern edge of the Kharkiv region, near the Oskil River, per AFP.

  • Kirill Stremousov, a pro-Russian separatist leader in occupied Kherson, said Monday on Telegram "many of us are at a loss about the current situation" in the Kharkiv region.
  • Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a key Putin ally, criticized Russia's military Sunday for its "mistakes."

Driving the news: In a major breakthrough for Ukrainian forces over the weekend, Russian forces withdrew from the areas surrounding Ukraine's second city Kharkiv in light of the Ukrainian advance on Saturday.

  • Russia's military also removed troops from the region's cities of Balakleya and Izyum, while Ukrainian forces reached the major railway city of Kupiansk — potentially cutting supplies for Russian forces.
  • Retreating Russian forces left behind significant amounts of munitions and weapons as Ukraine's military advanced on Sunday, AP reported.

The big picture: "Since the beginning of September, more than 3,000 square kilometers [1,158 square miles] have been returned to the control of Ukraine," Zaluzhnyi said in the Telegram post on Sunday, which marked the 200th day of the Russian military invasion.

  • Ukrainian forces are now about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the Russian border, he added.
  • Ukraine's Defense Ministry tweeted Sunday that Ukrainian forces had recaptured the village of Chkalovske, which lies between Izyum and Kharkiv.

Between the lines: Balakliia, Kupiansk and Izyum are crucial to the supply and logistics of Russian forces in the Donbas, per Politico.

The bottom line: In the face of Ukrainian advances, "Russia has likely ordered the withdrawal of its troops from the entirety" of the Kharkiv region west of the Oskil River, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update Monday.

  • "The rapid Ukrainian successes have significant implications for Russia's overall operational design," the Defense Ministry added.

What we're watching: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told a forum over the weekend the winter period could be "a turning point" in the war that could see a "rapid de-occupation of Ukraine," as he reiterated calls for more weaponry.

Go deeper: Last reactor at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is stopped, IAEA says

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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