Russian troops are retreating from the outskirts of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, after weeks of bombing it, the Ukrainian army said today, as forces from Kiev and Moscow battle across the country’s eastern industrial zone.
Ukraine’s general staff said the Russian military was withdrawing from the northeastern city to focus on securing supply routes while launching mortar, artillery and air strikes into Donetsk province to “deplete Ukrainian forces.” and destroy fortifications”, reports the Associated Press (AP).
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine “is entering a new – and long – phase of the war”.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Ukrainians were doing “the best” to drive the invaders out and warned that the outcome of the war depended on support from Europe and other allies.
“No one can predict today how long this war will take,” Zelensky said in his Friday night video message.
After failing to capture Kiev following his February 24 invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin shifted his focus to the Donbass, an industrial region in eastern Ukraine where the Ukrainian military has been fighting Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.
The Russian offensive aims to encircle Ukraine’s most experienced and well-equipped military in the east of the country and seize parts of Donbass that are still under Ukrainian control.
Air strikes and artillery barrages make it very difficult for journalists to move in the east, so there is no clear idea of how the fighting is going, but there seem to be gains and losses on both sides, with no major advances in either side. sides, writes the AP.
Kharkiv, which is just 80 kilometers southwest of the Russian city of Belgorod, has been the target of weeks of intensive bombing.
The mostly Russian-speaking city that had a pre-war population of 1.4 million was a major military target for Russia at the start of the war, when Moscow hoped to capture the largest Ukrainian cities.
However, Ukraine “appears to have won the battle for Kharkiv,” said the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank.
“Ukrainian forces prevented Russian troops from encircling, let alone taking Kharkiv, and then expelled them from the outskirts of the city, as they did with Russian forces that tried to take Kiev,” it added.