Ukrainian troops arrive at a railway hub, with breakout threatening to turn into defeat

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  • Ukrainian hack is the fastest in months
  • Thousands of Russian troops face potential encirclement

Kyiv/HRAKOV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainian officials released images on Saturday showing soldiers raising the country’s flag over the main railway city that supplied Russian forces in northeastern Ukraine, as the collapse of Russia’s frontline threatens to turn into defeat. .

Inside a vast area recaptured by Ukrainian forces in recent days, a Reuters journalist saw Ukrainian police patrolling towns and ammunition boxes dumped in piles at sites abandoned by fleeing Russian soldiers.

With the Ukrainians now arriving in the city of Kobyansk, where the railways connecting Russia with eastern Ukraine converge, the advance all the way to Moscow’s main logistics route, potentially trapping thousands of Russian troops.

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Natalia Popova, adviser to the head of the Kharkiv Regional Council, shared photos on Facebook of soldiers raising the Ukrainian flag in front of the Kobyansk city council. A Russian flag was stretched out at their feet. “Kobiansk is Ukraine. Glory to the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” she wrote.

The Ukrainian Security Service confirmed that Kyiv has forces inside Kobyansk.

In Hrakov, one of a dozen villages retaken, Reuters saw burnt-out cars bearing the “Z” symbol for the Russian invasion, and piles of rubbish and ammunition in positions the Russians hastily left behind.

“Hello everyone, we are from Russia,” was graffitied on the wall.

Three bodies lay in white bags in the yard.

The head of the regional police, Volodymyr Tymoshenko, said the Ukrainian police had taken action the day before, checking the identities of local residents who had lived under Russian occupation since the second day of the invasion.

“The first job is to provide the help they need. The next job is to document the crimes committed by the Russian invaders in the lands they temporarily occupied.”

If the capture of at least part of Kobyansk was confirmed, it would likely leave thousands of Russian soldiers trapped on the front line and cut off from supplies, including at Izyum, Russia’s main stronghold and logistical center in the northeast.

Reuters was not able to independently verify the situation in Kobyansk or Izyum. Moscow acknowledged that its front line had veered in Kharkiv but said it was rushing to send additional forces to reinforce the area. Provincial officials installed by the Russians called on civilians to evacuate the two towns.

In an intelligence update, the British Ministry of Defense said: “It is likely that a Russian force will become increasingly isolated around Iseum.

“Ukrainian units now threaten the town of Kobyansk; capturing it would be a big blow to Russia because it is on the supply routes to the Donbass front line.”

Mark Hertling, a retired four-star general and former commander of US Land Forces in Europe, tweeted, “Make no mistake, (Ukraine) is doing a great maneuver focused on terrain targets for the Russians’ ‘bag’. But the Russians are helping them — by doing very little to counteract” .

Zelensky hails success

President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a nightly video address that at least 30 settlements had been liberated in the Kharkiv region during the advance of recent days.

“Our army, our intelligence units and security services are carrying out active clashes in several operational areas. They are doing so successfully,” he said in a video speech.

Ukrainian officials have released a barrage of images of soldiers sweeping through formerly Russian-controlled towns and being embraced by locals who have been under Russian military occupation for six months.

Oleksiy Aristovich, an adviser to Ukraine’s presidential office, said in a video posted on YouTube that Russians in Izyum are almost isolated.

Ukraine’s advance in the east is its fastest success in months, long after the war turned into a relentless, grinding operation along the entrenched front lines.

A surprise came just a week after Kyiv announced the start of a long-awaited counter-offensive to retake Russian-occupied lands hundreds of kilometers away at the opposite end of the front at Kherson in the south.

Little information was announced about this operation, but Kyiv also reported some successes there, cutting off supply routes to thousands of Russian troops isolated on the western bank of the Dnipro River.

“We see success in Kherson now and we see some success in Kharkiv, which is very encouraging,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a news conference in Prague on Thursday.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed, millions driven from their homes and entire cities destroyed by Russian forces since Moscow launched what Moscow calls a “special military operation” to “disarm” Ukraine. Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians.

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Reporting by Reuters reporters. Written by Peter Graf. Editing by Jason Neely

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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