A Ukrainian counteroffensive and Russian retreat in the northeast have fueled optimism in Kyiv and Western capitals. But Moscow has pledged not to back down. Western officials said that Ukraine’s counteroffensive in Kharkiv could mark a turning point in the war, while Moscow described its pullback as a decision to “regroup.” The lightning advance in the Kharkiv region could pressure Moscow to call up more forces.
Ukraine counteroffensive in Kharkiv:
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday. Russia’s ambitions have shifted during the war: After failing to capture the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Russian forces turned their fire to the eastern Donbas region. The Kremlin said a general mobilization to reinforce troops in Ukraine is not currently on the table. “At the moment, no, it’s out of the question,” Peskov told reporters Tuesday after Russia’s setbacks in northeastern Ukraine.
He warned that criticism of military operations in Ukraine should “remain within the framework of the law.” As long as it does, “this is pluralism,” he said. “But the line is very, very thin. You have to be very careful here.”
Ukraine’s Latest Victories:
In a stunning counteroffensive, Ukrainian troops pushed east, seizing Balakliya on Thursday. Forces then continued toward Izyum and Kupyansk, areas which were under Russian control for months. By Sunday, Russian troops retreated, leaving more than 1,100 square miles back in the hands of Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian Commander in Chief Valery Zaluzhny. Russia’s defense ministry said troops were “regrouping.”
In the last five days, Ukraine has recaptured more territory than Russia has taken since April, according to the Institute for the Study of War, which closely tracks the conflict. The advance could be partly attributed to savvy messaging said Joel Hickman, deputy director of the Transatlantic Defense and Security program at the Center for European Policy Analysis.
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Ukraine had said it was planning to target Russian-held Kherson in the country’s south, Hickman noted. Russia repositioned equipment and reinforcements there, where they were expecting a counteroffensive. “What they actually did was lure Russians from places in the north,” Hickman said. “That created vulnerabilities that they were able to exploit.”
The seizures of two big cities dealt a blow to Russian supply lines in the region. Kupyansk’s railway was used to resupply Moscow’s forces in Russian-held Donetsk. Izyum also proved a vital link to Donbas. Analysts are not persuaded that these improvements signal a seismic shift, even though the momentum may have changed.
Territorial conquest is one thing, but maintaining control over it is another, particularly for a military-like Ukraine that hasn’t conducted many counteroffensive operations since the invasion began in February.
Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are set to meet in Uzbekistan this week, marking their first face-to-face meeting since the start of the war in Ukraine — and Xi’s first trip abroad since the pandemic. According to Chinese state media, Li Zhanshu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, said that China was willing to “continue working with Russia to firmly support each other on issues involving core interests and major concerns.”
Kyiv and Moscow appear interested in an agreement on a safety zone around Europe’s largest nuclear plant, according to Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog. While talks have begun, with both sides “engaging,” the details of a potential deal for the Zhaporizhzhia Plant in Ukraine are still being worked out, he said.
Europe is unlikely to escape winter recession, despite the Ukrainian counteroffensive:
Natural gas futures in Europe have dropped almost 50% after hitting a record in late August. They fell 20% last week alone as Ukraine’s troops advanced. But they’re still about 460% higher than a year ago, following Russia’s announcement that it would shut the crucial Nord Stream 1 pipeline.
It’s also not clear what Putin’s next moves will be as his forces retreat. He could cut remaining supplies of gas to Europe that continue to flow through Ukraine, worsening the region’s energy crisis, or revert to even more worrying forms of brinkmanship if he believes he’s been backed into a corner.
Europe has been racing to stockpile energy supplies so households and businesses can retain access to power and heat as the weather gets colder. The endeavor has been successful so far, with storage facilities at 84% of capacity, though at a huge cost.
Governments have also rolled out generous support packages to try to shield consumers and small companies from the effects of surging prices. The United Kingdom and Germany, along with other EU countries, have announced more than 500 billion euros ($509 billion) in subsidies for bills and other interventions aimed at softening the impact.
Russian forces lost hundreds of pieces of equipment during the Kharkiv retreat;
According to the Ukrainian military’s General Staff, during the week beginning Sept. 6, 590 pieces of Russian equipment were destroyed.
“Enemy losses were 86 tanks and 158 armored fighting vehicles, 106 artillery systems, 159 vehicles, and 46 units of other equipment,” the General Staff claimed.
CNN cannot independently verify the figures cited, but an independent group, Oryx which has collated Russian losses since the campaign began said it has verified a surge of losses among Russian units compared to August. Most have been incurred in Kharkiv, though the Russians have also lost equipment in Kherson and Donetsk.
Denmark says it will host training of Ukrainian soldiers:
Denmark has agreed to train Ukrainian soldiers on Danish soil, Ritzau news agency quoted Defence Minister Morten Bodskov as saying after a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart in Kyiv. Bodskov could not provide details about the number of Ukrainian soldiers, or the timing or location of the training, Ritzau reported.
“I cannot get into the details, but there will be the training of the Ukrainian defense in Denmark,” the minister told Ritzau. The defense ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
As Reported by the media team of the Youth Diplomacy Forum