Zelensky claims Ukrainian forces have liberated 30 towns in Kharkiv

Zelensky claims Ukrainian forces have liberated more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region with Russian officials even admitting their forces have been hit by a ‘rapid’ counter-offensive – as the CIA says Putin’s Ukraine invasion is ‘already a failure’

  • Zelensky announced Ukrainian forces have liberated 30 towns around Kharkiv
  • Ukrainian counteroffensive has smashed Russian lines and made huge advances 
  • Surprise attack started on Tuesday and caught out poorly defended Russians 
  • Now thousands of Russian troops encircled in vital towns of Izium and Kupyansk
  • Russia is facing prospect of its greatest battlefield defeat since World War Two

A lightning attack by Ukrainian forces has smashed Russian lines and punched deep into occupied territory, liberating more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region, President Zelensky announced.

The assault caught the Russian lines by surprise at a vulnerable section of their front in an attack that threatens an important supply hub used by occupying Russian forces in the east.

‘Our army, intelligence units and the security services are carrying out active engagements in several operational areas. They are doing so successfully,’ the Ukrainian president said in a video address to the nation.

‘We are gradually taking control over new settlements. We are returning the Ukrainian flag and protection for our citizens everywhere.’ He added that Ukrainians should report any crimes committed by the occupying forces. 

Vitaly Ganchev, head of the Russian-backed administration in the Kharkiv region, virtually admitted that large tracts of its frontline had crumbled southeast of Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv.

In light of the huge advances made by Ukrainian forces, CIA Director William Burns condemned Putin’s invasion as ‘already a failure’.

He said the Russian dictator had erred initially in underestimating Ukrainian will and ability to resist his invasion, and he continues to fatally underestimate the resolve of the West to support Kyiv and wage economic war on Russia. 

A lightning attack by Ukrainian forces has smashed Russian lines and punched deep into occupied territory, liberating more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region

A commanding officer of an anti-air unit of Ukraine’s Armed Forces loads a rocket launcher in his SUV as they prepare to support infantry in liberating Balakliya in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, Sept 8

The assault caught the Russian lines by surprise at a vulnerable section of their front in an attack that threatens an important supply hub used by Russian forces in the east

Ukrainian servicemen drive near Bakhmut, as Russia’s attack in Ukraine continues, in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, September 7

The Ukrainian high command has issued a media blackout and forbidden reporters from visiting the front line during its counteroffensive, leaving it to pro-Russian sources to admit their losses. 

‘The enemy is being delayed as much as possible, but several settlements have already come under the control of Ukrainian armed formations,’ Ganchev said on state television. 

He had previously said his administration was trying to evacuate civilians from cities including Izium, Russia’s main stronghold and logistics base in the province and one of the grand prizes of the Ukrainian offensive.

Russian military bloggers and other sources have also confirmed that Ukrainian spearhead units have reached as far as the banks of the Oskil river at Senkove, barely five miles from the Russian border.

There have been unconfirmed reports of fierce fighting around the north of Izium as Ukrainian mechanised troops enter the city.

The surprise assault began with a heavy artillery barrage against Russian lines on Tuesday September 6 in the region of the strategic town of Balakliya. Ukraine said it had mandated to capture the town on Thursday.

‘We do not control Balakliya. Attempts are being made to dislodge the Ukrainian forces, but there are fierce battles, and our troops are being held back on the approaches,’ Ganchev said.

‘Now Russian reserves have been brought there, our troops are fighting back,’ he added.

Videos and pictures have emerged showing troops standing victoriously on top of Russian flags in the liberated city Balakliia, while others have been shown in footage discovering the burnt out wreckages of enemy tanks. 

In one moving video, weeping women – speaking Russian – are seen in footage running to hug Ukrainian troops as they advance through a town. ‘How much we waited for you,’ said one. A soldier answers back: ‘It’s all right.’

A woman says to the Ukrainian liberator: ‘We’ve been so much praying for your return. Thank you for coming back.’

Left: Ukrainian soldiers – reportedly from the Kraken Special Branch – pose in with their weapons in front of a Ukrainian flag, standing or crouching on top of a Russian flag that has been pulled down. Right: A soldier poses on the steps of what appears to be a government building. Holding his weapon on the air, he is beaming from ear-to-ear. At his feet, a Russian tri-colour and red Soviet Union flag both lie in tatters while above him, the yellow and blue of a Ukrainian flag can be seen on the building

The offensive took the defenders – reported to be mostly fighters from DNR puppet state – by surprise, with Ukrainian troops overrunning abandoned Russian camps in which there was still food cooking on the stove. 

Ukrainian armoured tank battalions succeeded in punching through the Russian lines and broke out towards the Russian-held town of Kupyansk, a vital transport hub for Russian forces in the Donbas. 

Were Izium and Kupyansk to fall to Ukrainian liberators, it would have strategic implications for Russian forces along the entire eastern front.

Ukrainian officials released videos showing soldiers raising flags and posing in front of street signs in villages and towns across part of previously Russian-held territory.

One image showed troops a highway welcome sign for Kupiansk, previously more than 50 km inside Russia’s front line. The city is an important target as the junction of several of the main railway lines supplying troops at the front.

Zelenskiy adviser Oleksiy Arestovych, in a video posted on YouTube, said the Russian defenders in Izium were almost encircled. 

Citing what he described as reports from the front line, Arestovych said hundreds of Russians had died so far and several hundred more had been taken prisoner. 

Ukrainian forces are moving so rapidly that reporting struggles to keep up with the latest advances. The greatest danger for the Ukrainians is that they over-extend themselves, and leave themselves vulnerable to a Russian counterattack.

Pictured: A woman embraces a soldier as she cries in both joy and disbelief as Ukrainian soldiers reach her in Balakliia

Pictured: Weeping women run out of a building to greet Ukrainian soldiers who have liberated the local town in this moving video. 

Ukraine is conducting two major attacks – the first in the south of the country, near Kherson, where some 30,000 Russian soldiers are thought to be pinned down. The second attack was launched east from Kharkiv yesterday, and smashed through the lightly-defended Russian frontline

If the encirclement is completed, the Russian defenders of Izium will presumably be forced to surrender it what would become Russia’s worst battlefield defeat since the Second World War. 

The dramatic reversal for Russian occupiers in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine has prompted talk of panic and maudlin navel-gazing by Russian TV propagandists.

‘I just want to say, everyone who’s a believer should pray for our guys. I’m praying. There just aren’t words,’ said Anton Anisimov, the host of ‘political talk show’ Today.

The Ukrainians broke through in the east a week after Kyiv announced the start of a long-awaited counter-offensive hundreds of kilometres away at the other end of the front line, in the southern province of Kherson.

Ukrainian officials said Russia moved thousands of troops south to respond to the Kherson fixing attack which they cannot ignore, leaving other parts of the front line exposed in what looks like a remarkable strategic deception.

Ukraine then used new Western-supplied artillery and rockets to hit bridges over the Dnipro River in the south, with the aim of trapping thousands of Russian troops on the west bank of the wide river.

Western military analysts said the advance could shut the supply lines Moscow has relied on to sustain its force in eastern Ukraine, and potentially leave thousands of Russian troops encircled.

In this video, at least two tanks can be seen submerged under water – the Russian ‘Z’ symbol clearly marked on the side

Two separate clips showed Ukrainian soldiers driving Humvees against Russian-occupied positions. In one of the clip (pictured), filmed with a camera on the soldier’s helmet, he can be seen firing a heavy machine gun from the back of the military vehicle as it barrels towards a village at dusk

CIA Director William Burns said it was ‘hard to see Putin’s record in the war as anything but a failure’

Such rapid advances have largely been unheard of since Russia abandoned its assault on Kyiv in March, shifting the war mainly into a grind along entrenched front lines.

‘We see success in Kherson now, we see some success in Kharkiv and so that is very, very encouraging,’ U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a news conference in Prague.

In light of the incredible gains made by the Ukrainian counteroffensive, CIA Director William Burns declared that Putin’s bloody and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is already a failure. 

Burns said that Putin had erred initially in underestimating Ukrainian will and ability to resist his invasion, and he continues to fatally underestimate the resolve of the West to support Kyiv and wage economic war on Russia.

The outcome is that Putin has revealed that Russia – once thought to be the second military power in the world behind the US – to be a paper tiger whose economy will take decades to recover from the damage being wrought by sanctions.    

‘Putin’s bet right now is that he is going to be tougher than the Ukrainians, the Europeans, the Americans … I believe, and my colleagues at CIA believe, that Putin is as wrong about that bet as he was profoundly wrong in his assumptions going back to last February about Ukrainian will to resist,’ the New York Times reports Burns as saying at a conference in Washington.

‘Not only has the weakness of the Russian military been exposed … but there is going to be long-term damage done to the Russian economy and to generations of Russians,’ he said.

While the war is still ongoing and the shape of ultimate victory yet to be seen, Mr. Burns said it was ‘hard to see Putin’s record in the war as anything but a failure.’ 

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