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Ukrainian forces ‘appear to have won the battle for Kharkiv’, according to a US defense think tank, in what appears to be their fastest advance since Russian troops withdrew from kyiv and the northeast some time ago. over a month old.

In another apparent setback to Vladimir Putin’s war aims, analysts said on Saturday that Russian units had not attempted to hold their lines against counterattacks by Ukrainian troops around the city.

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city and just 50 km from the Russian border, has been under enemy shelling since the war began in February.

But the US Institute for the Study of War said in its latest assessment of the conflict that the Russians appeared to be backing down and aimed to replace their own troops with proxy forces or mercenaries.

“Ukraine therefore appears to have won the battle for Kharkiv,” the institute said. “Ukrainian forces prevented Russian troops from encircling, let alone seizing Kharkiv, then driving them out of the city, as they did Russian forces trying to seize Kyiv. “

Russian units had “generally not attempted to resist counterattacks by Ukrainian forces over the past few days, with a few exceptions”.

“Reports from Western officials and a video from a Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) officer indicate that Moscow is focused on conducting an orderly withdrawal and prioritizing the return of Russians to their homes before allowing forces by proxy to enter Russia rather than trying to hold positions nearby. the city.”

Ukraine now controls a territory extending to the Siverskyi Donets River, about 40 km east of the city.

“We are entering a new and long phase of the war,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Friday evening in a Facebook post, predicting “extremely difficult weeks” ahead in which he said that Ukraine would be largely alone against an “enraged aggressor”.

However, Moscow continues to bomb villages north of Kharkiv. About 10 km north of the city, firefighters extinguished the smoldering wreckage in Dergachi after what local officials said was an overnight Russian missile attack on the House of Culture, used to distribute food. aid. Volunteers inside were trying to retrieve packages of baby diapers and formula.

“I can’t call it anything other than an act of terrorism,” Mayor Vyacheslav Zadorenko told Reuters. “They wanted to hit the base where we store supplies and create a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Earlier on Friday, British defense intelligence said Russia had lost ‘significant armored maneuver elements’ of a battalion tactical group – usually made up of around 800 men – in a failed attempt to cross a strategically important river in the Donbass, southeast of Kharkiv.

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Lugansk region, said Russian forces were pushed back three times as they tried to cross the Siverskyi Donets River, losing armor and bridging equipment.

“We eliminated the Russian speedboats and helicopters, which they used to cover their attempts,” the governor added, as aerial photographs showed pontoon bridges and destroyed riverside armor.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry tweeted photos of a destroyed pontoon bridge and destroyed armored vehicles in Bilohorivka, describing them as showing casualties of “gunners from the 17th Tank Brigade”.

Ukraine won battle for Kharkiv, analysts say, as kyiv warns of ‘long war phase’ |  Russia
An aerial photo of a crumbling pontoon crossing with dozens of destroyed Russian armored vehicles on the banks of the Siverskyi Donets River. Photography: AP

Analysts believe Russian attempts to gain territory in the Donbass are increasingly focused on Severodonetsk, the easternmost town held by Ukrainian forces – and Russian forces were trying to cross the river in an attempt to cut the city.

However, the Institute of War said the Russians had “made no progress” with an attempted ground offensive from Izium, and the Kremlin may not have enough troops to complete the encirclement of Severodonetsk.

“The Russians may not have enough additional combat power to compensate for these losses and continue the offensive on a large enough scale to complete the encirclement, although they will likely continue to try to do so,” the official said. ‘institute.

Other key developments in the war were:

  • “Very difficult negotiations” are underway on the next stage of evacuations from Mariupol and the Azovstal steel plant, where the city’s last Ukrainian defenders are entrenched, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his last speech nocturnal. “We keep trying to save all our people from Mariupol and Azovstal. Currently, very difficult negotiations are underway on the next stage of the evacuation mission – the rescue of seriously injured doctors.

  • Zelenskiy also warned that the war and the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports “are causing a large-scale food crisis”, adding that “Russian officials are also openly threatening the world that there will be famine in dozens of countries”.

  • Russia will suspend electricity supplies to Finland from 1 a.m. on Saturday, supplier RAO Nordic said, amid growing tensions over Helsinki’s NATO bid. US President Joe Biden expressed support for Finland and Sweden’s right ‘to decide their own future, foreign policy and security arrangements’ during a call with his Finnish counterpart , Sauli Niinistö, and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

  • In their first conversation since the invasion, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke by phone with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Friday, calling for an immediate ceasefire and stressing the importance of lines open communications.

  • Foreign ministers from the G7 group of rich countries have backed aid and arms to Ukraine, and European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has announced additional military support of 500 million euros ($520 million) which is expected to be approved next week by EU members. . He expressed confidence that the bloc will agree to an embargo on Russian oil. Ukraine’s foreign minister said at the meeting in Germany that he hoped EU-recalcitrant Hungary would agree to the oil embargo. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban wants hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation before agreeing to a ban.

theguardian Gt

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