After announcing an attack on the Russian-occupied city of Balaklia earlier this week, videos circulated on social media showing Ukrainian soldiers flying the blue and yellow flags and being saluted by emotional civilians.
The capture of Balaklia might provide a strategic opportunity for the Ukrainians to advance further towards the occupied town of Izyum, which Russian forces had been using as a springboard for their attacks throughout the eastern Donbass region.
Russian state television on Friday rarely acknowledged the Ukrainian advance when Vitaly Ganchev, head of the Russian administration in the occupied parts of Kharkiv, said, described as speaking At a “sharp, very fast” pace. Footage also showed what appeared to be Russian tanks moving towards Kharkiv in an attempt to reinforce the area.
Also on Friday, pro-Kremlin military analysts shared a map of Ukraine’s progress in the occupied territories, showing significant gains after Kyiv forces raised their flag again at Balaklia, a critical juncture in the Kharkiv region.
The sudden advance in Kharkiv occurs alongside a Ukrainian offensive near the southern city of Kherson, with Ukrainian forces recently launching an offensive campaign to retake the strategic port city. The greater Kherson region helps shape Russian President Vladimir Putin’s coveted land bridge to Crimea, the peninsula that Russia invaded and annexed in 2014.
Recent developments offer a boost of optimism to Ukrainians, who hope the operations will put Moscow in a vulnerable position and force them out of many occupied areas before winter. Zelensky has repeatedly expressed hope for such gains, and on a visit to Kyiv on Thursday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken pledged lasting support to Ukraine.
However, Russia continues to control large areas within Ukraine and continues to demonstrate its ability to launch strikes across the country.
Despite some Ukrainian successes in the region, Russian forces still bombarded Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, on Friday, hitting one side of the Mesto Babylon Hotel and Resort with missiles. The strike also hit a nearby school and apartment buildings, injuring 14 people, including 3 children.
The city, which has come under frequent attacks since February, is now divided between a sense of normalcy and war. The rose beds are still carefully looked after in the middle of some streets near the city center, not far from where the buildings were badly damaged.
Traffic was light but was moving freely around the city on Friday. Many shop windows were covered with sandbags, but some shops were open and electric streetcars operated along several major boulevards. Several camouflaged tanks were stationed on the road to the city.
Residents of Kharkiv know that an attack pushing east could lead to more attacks. For example, Yura Miroshnikov came to see what was left of the building in which he had been working for 20 years before it was closed at the beginning of the invasion.
“Don’t come any closer,” shouted a man from an open window on a high floor, where he had already begun the desperate task of tearing down the pieces.
“It’s getting bigger,” Miroshnikov said of the fighting around the city. “My apartment is on the 14th floor, I can see it everywhere.”
However, he is excited about what he hears about Ukrainian progress in the region. “I think we should fight to Belgorod,” he said, citing a Russian city 50 miles to the north.
At a press briefing in Prague on Friday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Description of recent successes in Kherson and Kharkiv as “very, very encouraging”.
Blinken visited Kyiv on Thursday to show support for Ukraine as the White House announced an additional $675 million in military supplies to Kyiv.
The Weapons in that package It includes high-speed anti-radiation missiles, remote-detonating anti-tank mines, 105 mm howitzers and shots for rocket artillery systems. The United States also provides about $2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine and 18 of its neighbors.
Blinken’s visit focused largely on the recent counter-offensive operations in Ukraine, which Recipe As it is “under implementation and proven effective”.
The counter-offensive launched by Ukraine also forced Russian officials to postpone the holding of a referendum in the Kherson region, in preparation for the annexation of the occupied territories with a cover of procedural legitimacy. Occupation officials had hoped to hold the “vote” in September.
But this week, the head of Russia’s ruling party, United Russia, said it would be “right to hold a referendum on unity” with Russia on November 4. Ukrainian lands without any vote at all, as an annexation vote “would not be recognized by the West anyway.”
“We still say that this is basically a question that has to do with the will of those who live in these lands,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.
O’Grady reported from Kyiv, Ukraine, and Ilyushina from Riga, Latvia. Natalia Abbakumova contributed reporting.