KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian forces on Sunday pushed its counteroffensive within the nation’s east, exploiting fast positive aspects they made in every week of combating that has sharply modified the course of the battle.

Ukraine’s fast motion to reclaim Russia-occupied areas within the northeastern Kharkiv area compelled Moscow to withdraw its troops to forestall them from being surrounded and go away behind important numbers of weapons and munitions in a hasty retreat as the war marked 200 days on Sunday.

The jubilant Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy mocked the Russians in a video tackle late Saturday, saying that “the Russian military in lately is demonstrating the very best that it will probably do — displaying its again.”

On Sunday, he posted a video of Ukrainian troopers hoisting the nationwide flag over Chkalovske, one other city they reclaimed from the Russians within the counteroffensive.

Ukraine’s army chief, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyy, mentioned Sunday that Ukraine had liberated about 3,000 sq. kilometers (about 1,160 sq. miles) for the reason that starting of September. He famous that the Ukrainian troops at the moment are simply 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) away from the border with Russia.

The Russians’ pullback marked the largest battlefield success for Ukrainian forces since they thwarted a Russian try and seize the capital, Kyiv, at the beginning of the practically seven-month battle. Ukraine’s assault within the Kharkiv area got here as a shock for Moscow, which had relocated lots of its troops from the realm to the south in expectation of the principle Ukrainian counteroffensive there.

In an ungainly try to save lots of face, the Russian Protection Ministry mentioned Saturday the troops’ withdrawal from Izyum and different areas within the Kharkiv area was supposed to strengthen Russian forces within the neighboring Donetsk area to the south.

The declare sounded much like the justification Russia gave for pulling again its forces from the Kyiv area earlier this yr once they did not take the capital.

The group of Russian forces round Izyum has been key for Moscow’s effort to seize the Donetsk area, and their pullback will now dramatically weaken the Russian functionality to press its offensive to Ukrainian strongholds of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk simply south.

Igor Strelkov, who led Russia-backed separatists within the early months of the battle within the Donbas when it erupted in 2014, mocked the Russian Protection Ministry’s clarification of the retreat, suggesting that handing over Russia’s personal territory close to the border to Ukraine as a “contribution to Ukrainian settlement.”

The retreat drew indignant feedback from Russian army bloggers and nationalist commentators, who bemoaned it as a serious defeat and urged the Kremlin to reply by stepping up battle efforts. Many scathingly criticized Russian authorities for persevering with with fireworks and different lavish festivities in Moscow that marked a metropolis vacation on Saturday regardless of the debacle in Ukraine.

Ukrainian servicemen journey atop of an armored automobile on a highway in Donetsk area, jap Ukraine, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (AP Picture/Leo Correa, File)

Simply because the Russian forces have been rapidly pulling again from Izyum underneath Ukrainian hearth, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the opening of an enormous remark wheel at a Moscow park, a brand new transport hyperlink and a sports activities area.

The motion underlined the Kremlin’s effort to maintain pretending that the battle it calls a “particular army operation” was going in accordance with plan with out affecting the scenario within the nation.

Professional-Kremlin political analyst Sergei Markov criticized the festivities in Moscow as a grave political mistake.

“The fireworks in Moscow on a tragic day of Russia’s army defeat could have extraordinarily critical political penalties,” Markov wrote on his messaging app channel. “Authorities mustn’t rejoice when individuals are mourning.”

In an indication of potential rift within the Russian management, Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed chief of Chechnya, mentioned that the retreat from the Kharkiv area resulted from the Russian army management’s blunders.

“They’ve made errors and I feel they are going to draw the mandatory conclusions,” Kadyrov mentioned. “In the event that they don’t make modifications within the technique of conducting the particular army operation within the subsequent day or two, I shall be compelled to contact the management of the Protection Ministry and the management of the nation to elucidate the true scenario on the bottom.

Ukrainian Protection Minister Oleksii Reznikov mentioned in televised feedback Saturday that the Russians have been lower off from provide strains and predicted extra positive aspects.

“Will probably be like an avalanche,” he mentioned, predicting a Russian fallback. “One line of protection will shake, and it’ll fall.”

Regardless of Ukraine’s positive aspects, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the top of NATO warned Friday that the battle would seemingly drag on for months. Blinken mentioned the battle was getting into a essential interval and urged Ukraine’s Western backers to maintain up their help via what may very well be a troublesome winter.

In one other main growth Sunday, the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, was reconnected to Ukraine’s electrical energy grid, permitting engineers to close down its final operational reactor in an try and keep away from a radiation catastrophe as combating rages within the space.

For a number of earlier days, the plant was working in “island mode” with simply certainly one of its six-reactors working to energy cooling techniques and different essential gear.

Observe the AP’s protection of the battle at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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