Has the tide turned in Ukraine? Russians routed in northeast.

In a speedy counteroffensive, Ukraine retook much of a key eastern region, reversing hard-won Russian gains. The sudden, striking success is causing recriminations in Moscow and prompting some observers to claim Ukraine has turned the war in its favor. 

A Ukrainian soldier passes a destroyed Russian tank in newly recaptured territory on the road to Balakliia, Ukraine on Sept. 11, 2022. A Ukrainian counteroffensive managed to retake Balakliia and scores of settlements in the Kharkiv region in just a few days.

As the war in Ukraine marked 200 days on Sunday, the country has reclaimed broad swaths of the south and east in a long-anticipated counteroffensive that has dealt a heavy blow to Russia.

Ukraine claimed Monday that it took several more villages, pushing Russian forces right back to the northeastern border. After months of little discernible movement on the battlefield, Kyiv’s sudden momentum has lifted Ukrainian morale and provoked outrage in Russia and even some rare public criticism of President Vladimir Putin’s war. 

“In some areas of the front, our defenders reached the state border with the Russian Federation,” said Oleh Syniehubov, the governor of the northeastern Kharkiv region. 

Russia’s Defense Ministry announced over the weekend that it was pulling back troops from two key cities in the Kharkiv region. 

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said troops would be regrouped from the Balakliia and Izium areas to the eastern Donetsk region. Izium was a major base for Russian forces in the Kharkiv region, and earlier this week social media videos showed residents of Balakliia joyfully cheering as Ukrainian troops moved in.

“The Russian army in these days is demonstrating the best that it can do – showing its back,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video released by his office Saturday night. “They made a good choice to run.”

Mr. Konashenkov said the Russian move was being made “in order to achieve the stated goals of the special military operation to liberate Donbas,” an eastern area home to two separatist regions that Russia has declared sovereign.

It was not yet clear if Ukraine’s latest blitz could signal a turning point in the war – though some analysts suggested it might be, while also cautioning there would likely be months more fighting. Momentum has switched back and forth before.

Still, the mood was jubilant across the country.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Monday that its troops had liberated more than 20 settlements within the past day. 

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, likewise referenced sweeping Ukrainian gains, estimating that Kyiv has seized around 2,500 square kilometers (965 square miles) in its eastern breakthrough. The institute said it appeared that “disorganized Russian forces [were] caught in the rapid Ukrainian advance,” and cited social media images of apparent Russian prisoners seized around Izium and surrounding towns.

The buoyant mood was captured by a defiant Mr. Zelenskyy on social media late Sunday.

“Do you still think you can intimidate, break us, force us to make concessions?” Mr. Zelenskyy asked. “Cold, hunger, darkness, and thirst for us are not as scary and deadly as your ‘friendship’ and ‘brotherhood.’”

Meanwhile, in Russia, there were some signs of disarray as Russian military bloggers and patriotic commentators chastised the Kremlin for failing to mobilize more forces and take stronger action against Ukraine. Russia has continuously stopped short of calling its invasion of Ukraine a war, instead using the description “special military operation.”

Instead of a mass mobilization that could spur civil discontent and protest, it has relied on a limited contingent of volunteers.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the Moscow-backed leader of the Russian region of Chechnya, publicly criticized the Russian Defense Ministry for what he called “mistakes” that made the Ukrainian blitz possible.

Even more notable, such criticism seeped onto state-controlled Russian TV.

“People who convinced President Putin that the operation will be fast and effective ... these people really set up all of us,” Boris Nadezhdin, a former parliament member, said on a talk show on NTV television. “We’re now at the point here we have to understand that it’s absolutely impossible to defeat Ukraine using these resources and colonial war methods.”

Yet even amid Ukraine’s ebullience, the casualties kept mounting. Ukraine’s presidential office said Monday that at least four civilians were killed and 11 others were wounded in a series of Russian attacks in nine regions of the country. The U.N. Human Rights Office said last week that 5,767 civilians were killed so far.

In a reminder of the war’s toll, a council member in Izium – one of the areas that Russia said it has withdrawn troops from – accused those forces of killing civilians and other atrocities.

“Russian troops committed crimes and tried to hide them,” Maksym Strelnikov said. His claims could not immediately be verified.

Izium was a major base for Russian forces in the northeastern Kharkiv region. The first Ukrainian flag was raised over the city on Sept. 10, according to Mr. Strelnikov, and more have popped up across the whole city. Residents, some wrapped in the country’s blue-and-yellow flag, happily greeted Ukrainian forces, offering them food.

The Russians continued shelling Nikopol across the Dnipro from the Zaporizhzhia power plant, damaging several buildings there and leaving Europe’s largest nuclear facility in a precarious position. The last operational reactor in that plant has been shut down in a bid to prevent a radiation disaster as fighting raged nearby.

While the war likely will stretch into next year, the Institute for the Study of War said Monday that “Ukraine has turned the tide of this war in its favor” by effectively using Western-supplied weapons like the long-range HIMARS missile system and strong battlefield tactics. “Kyiv will likely increasingly dictate the location and nature of the major fighting.”

The British Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said it would likely further deteriorate the trust Russian forces have in their commanders and put Moscow’s troops on the back foot.

Some analysts praised Ukraine’s initial move on the southern Kherson area for drawing the attention of enemy troops there, before pouncing on more depleted Russian lines in the northeast.

Even around Kherson, Russia is struggling to bring forces across the Dnipro River to stop the Ukrainian offensive there, the British military said.

Despite Ukraine’s gains, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the head of NATO warned Friday that the war would likely drag on for months. Mr. Blinken said the conflict was entering a critical period and urged Ukraine’s Western backers to keep up their support through what could be a difficult winter.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. Hanna Arhirova reported from Kyiv. AP writers Karl Ritter, in Kyiv, and Joanna Kozlowska, in London, contributed to this report.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Has the tide turned in Ukraine? Russians routed in northeast.
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today