Ukraine reclaims Russian-held territories as troops launch counterattacks in Kyiv and Kherson
The Pentagon said a ‘nimble’ Ukrainian resistance has begun pushing Russian troops out of Kremlin-held regions
Ukrainian troops have reclaimed territory occupied by Russia as the nation’s troops seek to reverse momentum in the war, according to the US.
A US Department of Defense spokesperson told reporters on Wednesday that Ukraine is defending parts of the country “very smartly, very nimbly, very creatively”.
“We have seen indications that the Ukrainians are going a bit more on the offensive now,” they said. “We have seen them now in places, particularly in the south near Kherson, [where] they have tried to regain territory.”
The US official added that Ukrainian forces had been planning counter-attacks and were now “moving in that direction”.
“The Russians have not achieved any of the strategic objectives that they set out to — or certainly not without loss,” he said, adding that Ukrainian forces have successfully held off Russian attempts to seize the capital by closing in on Kyiv’s suburbs.
However, Ukraine has now retaken 80 per cent of Irpin, according to the Ukrainian newspaper Kyiv Independent, while battles continue in Bucha and Hostomel.
It follows reports that Russian forces targeted Kyiv’s suburbs with phosphorus bombs on Tuesday night as the Kremlin ramps up attempts to storm the capital.
Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushin said Russia launched white phosphorus bombs in Hostomel and Irpin, two small surbubs to the northwest of Kyiv with a combined population of less than 75,000. The use of such weapons against civilians is banned under the Geneva Conventions.
The Pentagon has warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin could turn to increasingly brutal methods in the face of heavy personnel losses and waning morale among troops.
Russia has not officially updated its casualty figures since claiming early this month that 498 servicemen had been killed and 1,597 wounded.
A pro-Kremlin tabloid earlier this week published and then swiftly deleted what it said were up-to-date casualty figures, which put the number of Russian soldier deaths at almost 10,000, before claiming it had been “hacked”.
The figures are thought to include more than a dozen elite Russian Spetsnaz fighters who have been killed in the southern port of Mariupol as President Putin’s assault on the city continues to meet fierce Ukrainian resistance.
Russian warships started to shell Mariupol from the Sea of Azov this afternoon, opening a new front against the besieged Ukrainian port where 100,000 people are still trapped without food, water, heating or electricity.
Human Rights Watch described the scenes unfolding in the southern port city as a “freezing hellscape littered with dead bodies”.
But Russia’s brutality in the region has been met with heavy losses among its own ranks, with a 15th Russian commander killed during battle in Mariupol this week.
Colonel Alexei Sharov is the fifth colonel to be killed in the conflict and joins five generals as well as a number of other top-ranked Russian officials who have died, including captains and majors.
The high-profile losses are thought to have spread dissent across the Kremlin’s orbit, from Russian battalions all the way up to high-ranking officials.
Russian government official Anatoly Chubais stepped down on Wednesday and fled the country, becoming the first high-ranking official to quit the Kremlin since the invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Chubais, who was President Vladimir Putin’s special representative for ties with international organisations, has left Russia and has no plans to return, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Mr Shoigu has been missing from public view for 12 days as President Putin is said to be carrying out a witch hunt of his closest allies to prevent information about Moscow’s military strategy from being leaked to the West.
Nato bolsters defences
Nato said on Wednesday that it will ramp up forces on its eastern flank amid warnings that President Putin will not stop at Ukraine.
Nato leaders will agree to the deployment of four new battlegroups in eastern Europe — in Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, according to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
The Nato chief said this amounted to a significant long-term increase in the military alliance’s presence in the region, doubling the existing number of battlegroups.
“We are determined to do all we can to support Ukraine,” Stoltenberg says, but Nato has a “responsibility” to ensure the war does not escalate beyond Ukraine, he said.
Ukraine reclaims territory as it is accused of strike inside Russia
LVIV, Ukraine —
As Russian forces appeared to retreat from parts of northern Ukraine on Friday, the Ukrainian military reclaimed territory there and was accused of entering Russia for the first time since the war began five weeks ago and bombing a fuel depot there.
Those developments came as another round of peace talks failed to produce a breakthrough and the threat of Russian aggression forced aid workers to call off a plan to evacuate desperate civilians from the shattered southern city of Mariupol.
Ukraine’s rapid recovery of parts of its northern territory has sparked cautious optimism, although officials have warned citizens and soldiers to remain on guard.
The Ukrainian military said Friday that its troops had retaken control of about 30 settlements in the north near Chernihiv and the capital, Kyiv. In a video message, Viacheslav Chaus, the governor of the Chernihiv region, said Russian forces had begun to vacate the area, in some cases leaving behind mines that local authorities were trying to remove.
Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, said that while Russian troops had retreated from some areas around the capital, fighting has continued in many parts. He told Sky News on Friday he could hear the sounds of explosions “nonstop during the day and night.”
The Russian military said this week that it would “drastically” reduce its operations in the north in order to boost peace talks and concentrate on its campaign in the east, where pro-Moscow separatists have declared independence from Ukraine. But both Western and Ukrainian officials have cast doubt on that statement, suggesting that in reality the Kremlin wants to resupply and reposition its forces in the northern areas.
In a potentially significant development, the Ukrainian military was accused of taking the fight briefly into Russian territory.
The governor of the Russian city of Belgorod, about 20 miles north of the border with Ukraine, said that a pair of Ukrainian helicopter gunships had fired missiles at an oil depot, sparking a large blaze Friday morning, and that shells had been launched from a nearby Ukrainian village. Military officials in Ukraine — whose own energy facilities have been the frequent target of Russian strikes — have not claimed responsibility for the strike..
If Ukraine did carry out the attack, it would call into question Moscow’s boast to have fully disabled Kyiv’s aerial capabilities. Ukrainian forces have had some success with drones, but President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly — without success — appealed to the U.S. and allied countries to supply his country with fighter jets.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the purported airstrike did not create “comfortable conditions” for the continuation of Russia-Ukraine talks, the latest round taking place virtually Friday.
Five previous negotiation sessions, including one in person in Istanbul this week, proved inconclusive, with mixed messages emerging on whether they achieved any progress. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on a trip to India, said the talks showed some promise and should continue, but Western officials have warned that the negotiations could be merely for show — a delaying tactic by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Last week, Russia's Defense Ministry announced that it would scale back assaults on Kyiv amid peace talks between the two countries. One Ukrainian MP said the move was an attempt to "save face," and that Russian forces were really "kicked" out of the city, causing concerns about whether the Kremlin really wants peace.
The Ukrainians Have Nearly Destroyed One Of The Russian Army’s Best Regiments
ight years ago, an elite Russian parachute regiment played a central role in a massacre of Ukrainian soldiers. Now Ukraine has exacted its revenge. The 331st Guards Airborne Regiment has been all but destroyed in fighting around Kyiv.
Around 50 of the 331st’s paratroopers have died in Ukraine, according to open-source intelligence analysts who have scoured the internet for confirmation of the deaths. The wounded could number a hundred or more. And then there are the missing—many of whom undoubtedly will be confirmed dead as the 331st reconstitutes in Belarus.
That’s potentially hundreds of casualties in a regiment that, at its peak strength, had just 2,000 men. Members of the 331st’s headquarters staff, including regimental commander Col. Sergei Sukharev, also have died. Analyst Rob Lee, from the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, has been tallying the 331st’s losses. The BBC weighed in with its own report on the regiment’s dismantling by Ukrainian forces.
Their reporting tells a startling tale—one that’s taken on a new quality in recent days. As Ukrainian troops chase behind Russian units retreating from the Kyiv suburbs, they’ve discovered hundreds of dead bodies. Civilians. Some lying along roadsides. Others in alleys or doorways. Many of them with their hands bound.
It’s increasingly clear that Russian units around Kyiv executed Ukrainian civilians—men and boys, in particular—before fleeing toward the safety of Belarus or Russia, often with looted home appliances and other spoils in tow. Ukrainian troops liberating the town of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, found at least 20 bodies in the streets.
It’s worth noting that the 331st was one of the units that fought in Bucha.
The 331st has a history of atrocities. It was one of the units the Kremlin deployed to eastern Ukraine in 2014 to bolster Russian-backed separatist forces. The Russians and separatists surrounded Ukrainian troops in Ilovaisk. Commanders on both sides agreed to a ceasefire to allow the trapped Ukrainians to leave Ilovaisk via a so-called “humanitarian corridor.”
It was a trap. The Russians opened fire on the departing Ukrainians, killing around 400 of them in what was, until recently, the bloodiest day ever for the post-Soviet Ukrainian army. The Ukrainian army captured 10 members of the 331st in Ilovaisk, helping officials in Kyiv to confirm the regiment’s role in the massacre.
The 331st got the better of the Ukrainians eight years ago in Ilovaisk. In fighting around Kyiv this March, the regiment’s fortunes reversed. The 33st’s thin-skinned BMD and BTR-D airborne fighting vehicles, designed to be lightweight in order to facilitate transport via Il-76 airlifter, offered little protection against the Ukrainians’ missiles and artillery.
Wrecked BMDs and BTR-Ds feature in several videos and photos circulating on social media. Analysts have confirmed the Russians so far have lost at least 19 BMDs and BTR-Ds. The actual total almost certainly is much greater.
The lesson, for Russian leaders who don’t seem keen to learn anything from their disastrous war on Ukraine, might be this. It’s one thing for an “elite” parachute regiment to defeat an army that’s retreating under the terms of a purported ceasefire.
It’s much harder to beat a determined foe armed with powerful anti-tank missiles and fighting for its own home. A foe that no longer believes Russian promises.
Pentagon: Russia has fully withdrawn from Kyiv, Chernihiv
Russian forces have fully withdrawn from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and the city of Chernihiv to its north, the Pentagon said Wednesday, as Moscow prepares to concentrate its invading forces in the eastern part of the country.
“We are assessing that all of the Russians have left,” said a senior U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under terms set by the Pentagon. Their full departure was confirmed only in the last 24 hours, this person said, cautioning that Russian forces may have left mines in their wake that would still need to be cleared.
U.S. and European intelligence officials have been tracking for days that Russia is in the midst of reorienting after encountering fierce resistance — and suffering thousands of casualties — in northern Ukraine. Moscow enjoys greater support in the east, where Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists have been locked in a grinding conflict for many years.
But while Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine’s capital region appears to be complete, with many units retreating through Belarus, the Pentagon has yet to see those personnel reenter eastern Ukraine, the senior defense official said Wednesday.