Russian soldiers have reportedly fled from a chunk of the Kharkiv Oblast, a city that the Russians took over at the beginning of the war. Oleh Syniehubov, the head of the Kharkiv Oblast Military Administration, stated:
“Our military continues the operation to liberate Kharkiv Oblast from the Russian occupiers. The enemy hastily abandons its positions and flees deep into the previously occupied territories, or immediately into the territory of the Russian Federation.
Yesterday [on 11 September], the Russians left the settlements of Velykyi Burluk and Dvorichna of the Kupiansk district. In some areas of the front, our defenders reached the state border with the Russian Federation.”
According to Kyrylo Tymoshenko: “Metre by metre, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are liberating Kharkiv Oblast: these are hundreds of settlements, thousands of streets; these are native places for tens of thousands of Ukrainians.”
The New York Times reports that Ukraine is claiming that its soldiers have continued to take more territory:
Ukraine on Monday continued its push to reshape the terrain of the 200-day war, claiming more territory in both the northeast and south, and raising questions over whether Russia’s once-daunting military can hold the territory it still controls in the country.
The Ukrainian military claimed to have advanced into an additional 20 Ukrainian towns and villages over the past 24 hours that had been under Russian control, adding to the hundreds of square miles it has retaken in the northeast.
It also said it had recaptured nearly 200 square miles in the southern region of Kherson in recent days, in an offensive that aimed to cut off thousands of Russian soldiers stationed west of the Dnipro River in territory that Russia claimed in the initial stages of its invasion.
Russia still holds vast chunks of eastern and southern Ukraine. But Russian officials, describing the retreat as a planned move to “regroup,” face hard questions, especially with a growing backlash to their “special military operation” in Ukraine from pro-war voices at home.
An anonymous source within the Pentagon told the New York Times that the Russians likely gave up on that territory in Kharkiv and retreated to Donbass:
“On the ground, in the vicinity of Kharkiv, we assess that Russian forces have largely ceded their gains to the Ukrainians and have withdrawn to the north and east. Many of these forces have moved over the border into Russia.”
The Russian government claimed that Russian forces did indeed retreat from some territory, but that this was done intentionally to regroup:
Russia’s Ministry of Defense confirmed that some of its forces were retreating from parts of the Kharkiv region, but framed it as an intentional move to regroup. As we read in Business Insider:
“Russia’s Ministry of Defense confirmed that some of its forces were retreating from parts of the Kharkiv region, but framed it as an intentional move to regroup.”
Nikolay Mitrokhin, a Russian expert at Germany’s University of Bremen, told Al Jazeera that the Russians did not panic when they left and took their time to leave, signifying a strategic movement as opposed to a fearful fleeing:
But the speed and ease with which Ukraine regained control of the area that lies west of the Russian border and north of the separatist “Luhansk People’s Republic” are raising questions.
The Russians abandoned next to no artillery or armoured vehicles, and their retreat from the heavily-fortified area did not look like a panicked flight that followed heavy fighting, according to videos from the area and Ukrainian military reports.
There is only one narrow road that connected the de-occupied towns of Kupiansk and Izyum to the Russian border.
But the retreat did not clog it up – and lasted days, not hours, Mitrokhin said.
To him, this signifies a deliberate decision made in the Kremlin to leave the area and use the manpower and weaponry near separatist-controlled areas.
“The Russian Defence Ministry made a decision – that apparently came from the very top – to fully withdraw forces from Kharkiv and to use the available resources to hold on to the positions in Donetsk, and perhaps, the border of Luhansk,” Mitrokhin said.