Ukraine piles pressure on retreating Russian troops
Ukrainian troops piled pressure on retreating Russian forces Tuesday, pressing a counteroffensive that has produced major gains and a stunning blow to Moscow's military prestige. As the advance continued, Ukraine’s border guard services said the army took control of Vovchansk — a town just 3 kilometers (2 miles) from Russia seized on the first day of the war. Russia acknowledged that it has withdrawn troops from areas in the northeastern region of Kharkiv in recent days. It was not yet clear if the Ukrainian blitz, which unfolded after months of little discernible movement, could signal a turning point in the nearly seven-month war. But the country's officials were buoyant, releasing footage showing their forces burning Russian flags and inspecting abandoned, charred tanks. In one video, border guards tore down a poster that read, “We are one people with Russia.”
Ukraine may have Russian forces caught in 'beautifully defensible grave'
A major Russian military force could be destroyed by Ukraine following a gambit that baited Russia's commanders into sending their troops into a vulnerable position.
“They are trapped between Ukrainians and the river,” a senior European official told the Washington Examiner. “They are all in range of Ukrainian artillery at the moment.”
That bleak scenario for Russian forces has been described not only by trans-Atlantic observers eager for Ukraine’s victory but also by pro-Russian sources alarmed by the turn of events sprung upon the invading troops in recent weeks. The Russian lines have traced the shape of a fishhook on the map of Ukraine — from Crimea and Kherson in the south, north and east toward Donbas before curving around toward Kharkiv — but Ukrainian counterattacks have blunted that hook near Kharkiv and exposed the vulnerability of the invading troops at the opposite end of the Russian line in a precarious position, as even Russian sources acknowledge.
“An interesting technique: they achieved success in one direction — brought us to a state where we do not think about any offensive operations in this direction, only about stabilizing the frontline — and offensive surpluses are transferred to another sector,” the commander of the Vostok Battalion, Aleksandr Khodakovsky, who has led the pro-Russian force since his defection from Ukraine in 2014, wrote in a Telegram post. "A developed transport infrastructure allows them to maneuver with limited forces, creating accumulations in places where it is necessary according to the plan, and the presence of a plan and its implementation is the possession of a strategic initiative.”
That grim compliment, translated by the Estonia-based War Translated project, reflects the “brilliant” stratagem of Ukrainian General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, as a former U.S. ambassador put it. The curvature of the Russian positions gave Ukrainians the advantage of “interior lines” — that is, the defending Ukrainian forces inside the fishhook can move along a straight line from one contest to another, while the Russian troops have to take a longer route along the outside of the curve to move from one end of the war zone to the other.
“From Kharkiv to Kherson, this arc [of Russian-held territory in Ukraine] — for a long time, the Ukrainians made it pretty clear that their counteroffensive was going to be down near Kherson, and the Russians noticed, they moved their troops around ... and prepared and dug in,” former Ambassador Bill Taylor, a veteran of the Vietnam War who led the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv on two occasions, told the Washington Examiner. “And then the Ukrainians apparently transferred this surplus, these additional forces [to Kharkiv] and drove [the Russians] way, way, way back. That’s brilliant generalship. The [American] Civil War generals would be in awe.”
The efficient maneuverability of the Ukrainian forces makes for a marked contrast with the clipped wings of the Russian forces, as described by the pro-Russian sources. Khodakovsky described Ukraine as “accumulating resources” around the Kurakhove and Pokrovsk, a pair of cities in the Donetsk district, part of the Donbas region that has been ravaged by the war since 2014. In parallel, the Russian troops around Kherson find themselves on the receiving end of punishing artillery barrages — a kind of bludgeoning that they relied on throughout the summer to power their own attacks on Ukraine.
Ukraine Vows to 'Destroy' All Russian Fighters, Including Involuntary Units
The commander in chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine vowed Wednesday to destroy all Russians who cross its borders with weapons, regardless of whether they joined the war by choice or force. A Twitter thread posted by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine but attributed to Valery Zaluzhny stressed Ukraine's commitment to continuing to defend its territory against Russian aggression. "Hundreds of thousands of men and women protect their native land, their homes, their children and the future of Ukraine," one tweet said. Zaluzhny noted a partial mobilization in Russia that was announced Wednesday, but said that no statements from Russia's military or political leaders would "affect our willingness to fight for our freedom."
Ukraine War Comes to Russia as Putin Imposes Draft
A day after President Vladimir V. Putin announced a call-up that could sweep 300,000 civilians into military service, thousands of Russians across the country received draft papers on Thursday and some were being marched to buses and planes for training — and perhaps soon a trip to the front lines in Ukraine.
Mr. Putin’s escalation of the war effort was reverberating across the country, according to interviews, Russian news reports and social media posts. As the day wore on, it became increasingly clear that Mr. Putin’s decision had torn open the cocoon shielding much of Russian society from their leader’s invasion of a neighbor.
Mothers, wives and children were saying tearful goodbyes in remote regions as officials — in some cases, ordinary schoolteachers — delivered draft notices to houses and apartment blocks. In mountainous eastern Siberia, the Russian news media reported, school buses were being commandeered to move troops to training grounds.
Russian officials said the call-up would be limited to people with combat experience. But the net appeared wider, and some men decided it was best to head for the borders.
Yanina Nimayeva, a journalist from the Buryatia region of Siberia, said that her husband, a father of five and an employee in the emergency department in the regional capital, had been inexplicably called up. She said he received a summons to an urgent 4 a.m. meeting where it was announced that a train had been organized to bring men to the city of Chita.
The video shows two military officials on stage in front of a group of new recruits who had been called up to fight in the ongoing war in Ukraine, The Insider reported.
Suddenly, a gunshot rings out and one of the officials collapses as everyone else runs out of the enlistment in panic, the video shows.
"Nobody is going to go anywhere," the man shouted moments before opening fire, The Guardian reported, citing eyewitnesses.
Insider was unable to independently verify the video.
The official was identified as Alexander Vladimirovich Eliseev, a military commandant who also runs the local draft board in the Irkutsk region, Russian state media outlet TASS reported.
Igor Kobzev, the governor of the region, wrote on the Telegram messaging app that Eliseev was "in intensive care in an extremely serious condition," TASS reported.
Another video on social media, shared by The Insider, shows the motionless official on a stretcher as he is carried out of the building and into an ambulance.
The suspect was identified as a 25-year-old resident of Ust-Ilimsk, TASS reported. "The shooter was immediately detained. And he will definitely be punished," Kobzev added in his Telegram post, according to TASS.
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a partial mobilization last week, ending Russia's reliance on volunteer troops.