The Daily Telegraph

Ukrainians launch surprise attack in east

Counter-offensive said to have begun in Kharkiv region with Kyiv liberating 10km of Russian-held land

- By Roland Oliphant and Joe Barnes

UKRAINIAN forces have launched a surprise offensive against Russian positions in the east of the country in an apparent expansion of their efforts to roll back the invasion.

Reports of a Ukrainian attack on Balakliya, a Russian-held town about 43 miles south-east of Kharkiv, emerged on unofficial Ukrainian and Russian Telegram social media channels.

The Ukrainian ministry of defence did not comment on the reports.

Anton Gerashchen­ko, a former Ukrainian MP, said: “They are promising good news from the Kharkiv direction, maybe Balakliya.” The Grey Zone, a popular Russian war blog, said it had spoken to open and private sources confirming the Ukrainian attack and said they may have managed to seize key bridges to allow them to reinforce near the city. The reports could not immediatel­y be confirmed.

Another pro-russian Telegram channel claimed there was “no panic” and that reserves were being sent to the town. It said there was no “deep breakthrou­gh”.

Balakliya lies on a bend of the Siversky Donets river to the west of Izyum, a town that Russia turned into a stronghold for its summer offensive into the Donbas in summer.

Control of Balakliya could facilitate a Ukrainian attempt to encircle or partially encircle the Russian-held city of Izyum, said Oleh Zhdanov, a Kyiv-based military analyst.

Announcing the apparent counteratt­ack, Serhiy Leshchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s presidenti­al office, said there would be “great news from President Zelensky on counter-offensive operation in Kharkiv region”. He later deleted the social media post. A proUkraini­an channel on Telegram shared a picture of Ukrainian troops riding on an armoured personnel carrier through Balakliya and an unverified account from a Ukrainian soldier that said Kyiv’s forces had liberated more than 10km of Russian-held territory.

Western analysts said Moscow’s inability to fight back against the fresh assault was a clear sign of disarray within its forces.

The attack near Kharkiv comes a week after Ukraine launched a muchhyped assault against a vulnerable Russian pocket on the west bank of the Dnipro river in the Kherson region, on the southern front.

The assault may be intended as a diversion to keep the Russians from reinforcin­g Kherson.

On Monday, Ukrainian forces mounted a surprise attack across the Siversky Donets river in the Donetsk region at a village called Ozernoye. No reason for the operation was given. Russian media later claimed the town had been retaken.

The attack came as a top Russia-installed official in occupied southern Ukraine was injured in a car bombing.

Artyom Bardin, the Russia-appointed head of Berdyansk on the Black Sea, is in hospital in a grave condition after his car blew up yesterday afternoon, Vladimir Rogov, another Russia-appointed official, said.

Footage from the scene showed Mr Bardin’s car charred and mangled from what appears to be a powerful explosion that scattered debris in the street.

Mr Rogov said the explosion was caused by ammunition that was planted in the official’s car. He would not give any other details but blamed the explosion on Ukraine. Another blast in Berdyansk was reported a few hours later but there were no immediate reports of casualties. Russian-occupied towns in southern Ukraine have seen a flurry of attacks on figures in the occupation administra­tion in what the Ukrainian government has hailed as the work of partisans behind enemy lines.

It came as Vladimir Putin and his most senior military aides oversaw the first large-scale war-games involving China and other Kremlin-friendly allies since the start of the war.

Mr Putin flew to the far eastern city of Vladivosto­k for the seven-day live-fire exercise in the Sea of Japan yesterday.

He was joined by Sergei Shoigu, his defence minister, and Valery Gerasimov, the military chief of staff, at the Sergeevsky training range in Primorye.

Footage showed the three, rarely seen together since the war began, sitting quietly on an observatio­n platform. More than 50,000 Russian soldiers and 5,000 pieces of military equipment, including 140 aircraft and 60 ships, will be involved in the joint exercise.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom