Ukraine takes back territory to the east amid Russian attacks

Ukraine pressed its counter-offensive on Russian troops on Wednesday, pushing them back from the northeastern city of Kharkiv in what observers say could bring a new phase to the conflict even as US intelligence officials warned Moscow was preparing. for a long war.

The Ukrainian military said it was able to recover a constellation of settlements north of Kharkiv, pushing Russian troops back less than a dozen miles from the Russian border.

The move, said the regional governor of Kharkiv. Oleh Sinegubov, reduces pressure on the city of Kharkiv, the second largest in Ukraine and to main target of the Russian invasion since the beginning of the war.

“The occupiers had even fewer opportunities to shoot at the regional center,” Sinegubov said Wednesday on his channel on Telegram’s messaging app.

A destroyed house on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine

A house lies destroyed in a village taken over by Ukrainian forces on the outskirts of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine.

(Felipe Dana / Associated Press)

In his nocturnal speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the advance of his troops, saying they have demonstrated “superhuman strength”. But he warned his compatriots not to “spread excessive emotions” or expect a quick victory.

“There is no need to create such an atmosphere of specific moral pressure when predicting certain weekly and even daily victories,” he said.

Zelensky’s words seemed to coincide with the director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency’s characterization of the conflict as blocked.

“The Russians aren’t winning, and the Ukrainians aren’t winning, and we’re at a bit of a stalemate here,” the lieutenant. General Scott D. Berrier blatantly told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, just before the House Approved $ 40 billion in additional weapons and other aid for Kiev.

The breakthrough reported by Ukrainian forces near Kharkiv comes as fighting rages on in other parts of the country, including Zmiinyi Island, also known as Snake Island, a spur in the Black Sea about 90 miles south of the coastal city of Odesa. Ukrainian forces hit Russian air defenses and supply ships, according to a British Defense Ministry intelligence update on Wednesday.

The island acquired enormous symbolic importance at the start of the war, when Ukrainian soldiers stationed in a garrison there rejected a request for a Russian warship to surrender with a lively rejoinder.

The British Defense Ministry said that if Moscow can consolidate its position on the island with enhanced defenses, the outcrop could be used to “dominate the northwestern Black Sea”. But a redoubt there “would offer Ukraine more opportunities to engage Russian troops” and destroy material.

In the besieged port city of Mariupol, Russian forces continued their attack on Ukrainian defenders bunker in the vast Azovstal steel plant.

Those defenders launched an urgent appeal on Tuesday, posting a series of photos on the Azov regimental paramilitary group’s Telegram channel, calling on the United Nations and the Red Cross to help save hundreds of soldiers who now live “without the necessary medicines and even without. food”.

“The military you see in the photo and hundreds of others in the Azovstal plant defended Ukraine and the entire civilian world with serious injuries to the detriment of their health,” read the fighters’ statement. “Ukraine and the world community are now unable to protect and care for them?”

Ukrainian soldier wounded inside the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, Ukraine

A wounded soldier from the Azov Special Forces Regiment of Ukraine lay inside the defeated Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol.

(Dmytro ‘Orest’ Kozatskyi / Azov Special Forces Regiment)

Meanwhile, Ukraine announced that it would suspend gas shipments through a transit point that handles about a third of the gas Gas delivered from Russia to Europe.

In a statement Tuesday, Ukrainian state company Naftogaz declared “force majeure”, saying it would stop deliveries through Sokhranivka starting Wednesday due to interference from Russian and separatist troops who now have control of the area.

Naftogaz said that “the occupying authorities” had interrupted communications and interfered with the operation of the pipeline and that “it was no longer able to carry out continuous and effective operational and technological control” over its facilities. The company said it asked Gazprom, The Russian state gas companyto transfer the related volumes to another link located in the Ukrainian controlled area.

Gazprom refused, according to the Reuters news agency.

In Lviv, the western city that is a crossroads for those fleeing war and those seeking to return to their previously abandoned homes, the central train station was the usual hustle and bustle of Wednesday activity. A whole ecosystem of refugees sprang up in and around the historic Art Nouveau station: a World Food Kitchen tent was serving borscht and a free cafe slowly filled with newcomers.

Those who needed a respite after hours or days of travel were taken to rest rooms and a daycare. Some who got off the trains with little but their clothes on were ushered into piles of donated supplies: boxes of diapers, bottles of shampoo, piles of sweatshirts.

Volunteers prepared for the arrival of an afternoon train from Pokrovsk, a heavily bombed city in Donetsk province, in the eastern battle zone. “We know these people will be in bad shape: hungry, tired and scared,” said volunteer Valentin Andrushko.

After another train arrived from Zaporizhzhia, a city in the south-east that was a transit station for people fleeing Mariupol and its surroundings, a young volunteer spoke in a low voice to an elderly woman who leaned on to a stick and sobbed. She recovered briefly, nodding and wiping her eyes, then collapsing again.

Some travelers were making a reverse journey, to homes they had left weeks or months ago. Iryna Dragunova, a teacher from Lviv, was greeting her brother and sister-in-law, who were heading east to Kiev, where they fled in the first weeks of the war. Neighbors in the capital told the couple that apart from a few windows shattered during a nearby bombing, their apartment was intact.

“Even if it doesn’t seem so safe yet, and even if I beg them to stay here with me, they just want to go home,” Dragunova said.

Together with her mother, 21-year-old Liz Ivanchenko was headed to the central city of Dnipro. When they first fled nearly two months ago, they were unable to persuade his 83-year-old grandfather to come. But now, alone and sick, he had agreed to accompany them to Poland.

“We want him to be safe with us,” Ivanchenko said. “At first he would not have gone there, but now he understands that this war could go on for a long time.”

King reported from Lviv and Bulos from Amman, Jordan.