Ukraine yesterday hailed a lightning counter-offensive it said had recaptured swathes of territory in the east and south, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited to pledge further aid at what he called a “pivotal moment”.
krainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Blinken in Kyiv that the US was helping Ukraine “return our territory and lands” occupied by Russian forces and Blinken pledged US support for “as long as it takes”.
Earlier yesterday Ukrainian Brigadier General Oleksiy Gromov said the country had recaptured more than 700 sq km of its territory in the east and south, the first official assessment of the operation.
Ukrainian forces had advanced up to 50 kilometres behind Russian lines and recaptured more than 20 villages in the Kharkiv region, he said.
Blinken told reporters before leaving Kyiv: “We did get a comprehensive update on the counter-offensive and, again, it’s very early but we’re seeing clear and real progress on the ground, particularly around Kherson, but also some interesting developments in the Donbas in the east.”
If the gains are confirmed and held, it would be a serious blow for Russia, which Western intelligence services say has suffered huge casualties.
It would also represent a big boost for Kyiv, which is keen to show its Western backers that it can change the facts on the ground by force and deserves continued support.
This week’s surprise counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine saw Kyiv’s forces make a sudden and deep thrust behind Russian lines.
A Russian official said Moscow’s forces had put up stiff resistance and prevented Kyiv’s forces from taking at least one key town in the Kharkiv region.
Ukraine has for weeks been talking about a big counter-offensive in the south around Kherson. Western military analysts believe Russia may have left itself exposed in other areas as it rushed to reinforce the south.
Blinken announced $2.2bn (€2.2bn) in new foreign military financing to Ukraine and 18 other countries at risk of future Russian aggression.
Approximately $1bn (€1bn)will go to Kyiv while the US also announced a separate $675m (€625m) in weapons to Ukraine.
Zelenskiy had spoken of “good news” on the battlefields of eastern Ukraine the night before and had thanked three brigades for what he called their bravery.
In a late night address to the nation, Zelenskiy had said: “All of you have most likely seen reports about the recent activities of Ukrainian defenders. And I think every citizen feels proud of our warriors.”
Missiles hit multiple areas of Kharkiv again yesterday, causing widespread damage with casualties, according to Kharkiv prosecutor.
“We are scared … You can’t get used to it, never,” local resident Olena Rudenko said.
Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilian areas.
Kyiv is under pressure to demonstrate progress before winter sets in, amid threats by Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt all energy shipments to Europe if Brussels goes ahead with a cap on the price of Russian gas.
Russia has confirmed fighting in the Kharkiv region area but has not confirmed any territorial losses, though unverified social media accounts run by Russian military experts have suggested Moscow did suffer setbacks and would need to urgently reinforce.