Ukraine continued to make “significant gains” during its counteroffensive in several regions of the country, prompting Russian forces to withdraw quickly, in what intelligence reports described as a “turning point in the war”, as pressure mounted on the Kremlin to amid calls for the resignation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. , from the duties of his position.
Russia on Monday withdrew more troops from the Kharkiv region and pulled back from a swath of northeastern Ukraine as Kiev forces continued their incursion into Russian-held territory, and the government vowed to take back all territory captured by Moscow. according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
In less than a week, the Ukrainian military has made “stunning gains”, and Ukrainian forces have recaptured almost the entire Kharkiv region occupied by Russian forces since the invasion began, changing the course of the war that has raged for more than have, can change. half a year and change the geopolitical structure of Europe, according to a report by the “Washington Post” “.
The Ukrainian forces moved eastward and took Balaklia on Thursday, after which the forces continued their movements towards Izyum and Kobyansk, two areas that had been under Russian control for months.
By Sunday, Russian forces had withdrawn, leaving more than 1,100 square miles in Ukrainian hands, according to Ukrainian commander-in-chief Valery Zalogny.
Joel Heckman, deputy director of the Transatlantic Security and Defense Program at the Center for European Policy Analysis, attributes the Ukrainian advance to “smart messaging,” noting that “Ukraine has said it plans to enter the Russian-held Kherson region the south of the country.”
“What they actually did was lure the Russians away from places in the north,” Heckman said, “and that led to the emergence of weaknesses that they could exploit,” stressing that “Ukraine has more incentives than Russia have,” according to his statements to the “Washington Post.”
Turning point in the war
Residents of liberated cities told The Washington Post that the Russians dropped their weapons and fled on stolen bicycles disguised as civilians when they realized they would have to retreat.
US and Western officials said on Monday that the “Ukrainian counterattack” prompted Russian forces to “rapidly withdraw”, which could be a “turning point in the war” and increase pressure on Moscow to call in additional troops if it hopes to prevent further Ukrainian. advancement. According to a report by the newspaper “Washington Post”.
“The Russians are in trouble,” a US official said, adding, “The question will be how the Russians will respond, but their weaknesses have been exposed and they don’t have large reserves of manpower or equipment,” according to the ” Washington Post.”
Another U.S. official said that “Ukrainian forces appear to be advancing cautiously and consolidating their gains,” noting that Russian forces appear to have realized that they “lack the weapons and manpower needed to retake the newly liberated towns and villages in the northeast of the country. ,” according to the paper.
A US official described the withdrawal of Russian forces as a “military setback” and added: “I don’t know if I can call it a major strategic loss at this point.”
Officials doubted that Russian President Vladimir Putin would resort to “extreme tactics such as the use of chemical or tactical nuclear weapons,” according to the Washington Post.
Challenges for Kiev
The recent gains have fueled optimism that Ukrainian forces could recapture more territory in the coming weeks and potentially force the Russians to abandon territory they have held since the war began in February.
But despite Kyiv’s successes, the fighting has inflicted “heavy losses on Ukrainian forces” who say they lack the artillery needed to repel the better-equipped Russian forces, according to the Washington Post.
The real challenge for Kiev remains “to keep the countries that have been liberated from the grip of the Russians,” according to the “Washington Post.”
Russia still retains much of Ukrainian territory, and Moscow controls “large parts of the territory in eastern and southern Ukraine”, including the strategically important cities of Mariupol and Kherson, presenting a new challenge to Kiev’s forces .
Moscow also has some of the “most damaging” weapons in its arsenal such as “cluster munitions and thermobaric weapons”.
Some officials warned that despite all the shortcomings of Russian forces, the Russians still have the ability to “regroup and respond forcefully”, according to the Washington Post.
“We must not ignore what Russia can do in this conflict,” Heckman said according to the “Washington Post”.
Ukraine still faces an “uphill battle,” with Kiev waiting for “more support from the international community to confront the Russian invasion,” according to a report by the Financial Times.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin led the toughest crackdown on dissent since taking power two decades ago, criminalizing any criticism of the war effort, or even describing it as a war rather than a “special military operation”.
Thousands of journalists, activists and others fled the country, while all the prominent independent news media still operating in Russia were forced to close, and prominent opposition figures who refused to escape were jailed.
But Ukraine’s successes in the “counterattack” have had repercussions inside Russia and have amounted to “calls for Putin’s resignation,” according to a report by the New York Times.
More than 40 local elected officials across the country signed a two-sentence petition on Monday that ended with: “We demand the resignation of Vladimir Putin from the post of president of the Russian Federation,” according to the newspaper.
While the pro-invasion politicians accused the “Russian military leadership” of not fighting the war with enough “determination and competence,” and of not “presenting all the facts to Putin,” according to the newspaper.