The Daily Telegraph

Ukrainians battle on to Russian border after liberating most of Kharkiv

Kremlin insists that it will achieve its ‘original goals’ despite suffering devastatin­g defeats in north-east

- By Roland Oliphant and Joe Barnes in Brussels

UKRAINIAN forces reached the Russian border yesterday after a lightning offensive that led to the sacking of a top Russian general.

It came as the Kremlin insisted it would win the war even though Kharkiv had been liberated after the collapse and rout of units defending it.

Ukraine’s forces reached areas close to its north-eastern border with Russia that had been occupied since the first day of the war in February. They were also reported to have crossed the Siversky Donets river in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, threatenin­g Russian lines of communicat­ion there.

Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, vowed that the “special military operation” would continue but refused to answer directly when asked if Mr Putin retained confidence in the country’s military leadership. “The military operation continues. And will continue until the goals that were originally set are achieved,” he said yesterday.

“The president is in round-the-clock communicat­ion with the minister of defence and with all military commanders. It cannot be otherwise during the special military operation.”

Lt Gen Roman Berdnikov, the commander of Russia’s Western forces, which were responsibl­e for that section of the front, was relieved of command on Sunday, according to Ukraine’s military intelligen­ce service. It said he had been in post since Aug 26 when he replaced Lt Gen Andrei Sichevoi, who had been appointed in July.

Earlier, Russia’s ministry of defence said its troops had withdrawn from the Kharkiv region to “regroup” on the eastern side of the Oskil river.

Ukraine launched a surprise attack on Russian lines last Tuesday with the goal of pushing the Russians away from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, and setting up a future assault on Izyum, a strategica­lly vital command and logistics centre for Russia’s assault on Donbas.

An attack over the weekend triggered a Russian collapse that enabled Ukrainian troops to capture Izyum and

‘The president is in roundthe-clock discussion­s with the minister of defence. It cannot be otherwise during the special military operation’

Kupiansk, rail and road hubs that control Russian supply lines to Donbas.

Ukraine’s ministry of defence said yesterday 20 additional settlement­s had been liberated in the previous 24 hours and 500 square km (193 square miles) had been recaptured in the southern Kherson region, where a separate offensive began two weeks ago.

Sources on both sides reported fighting for the Russian-held town of Liman in the northern Donetsk region, which Ukraine attacked late last week.

Ukrainian media cited military sources saying troops had captured nearby Sviatohirs­k. Pro-russian war bloggers said the Ukrainians had also crossed the Siversky Donets river, near Bilohorivk­a in the Luhansk region.

Russia announced rocket and artillery attacks on retaken areas. Ukraine said Russian strikes hit 15 locations across the country.

Oleksii Reznikov, the Ukrainian defence minister, said the counteroff­ensive marked a new phase of the war made possible by the supply of Western Himars rocket systems.

“The counter-offensive is the third phase” of Ukraine’s plan to retake territory, beginning in the south and north, Oleksii Reznikov told Le Monde.

The first phase was an attempt to dissuade Russia from pressing its attack, and the second was aimed at “stabilisin­g the front and testing their capacities for resilience”. Britain’s defence intelligen­ce said Ukraine had recaptured an area twice the size of greater London during the course of the offensive.

Oleh Syniehubov, governor of Kharkiv region, said Ukrainian troops had reached the Russian border to the north and east of the city. A video posted online showed Ukrainian troops closing the barrier at a Ukrainian border post and replacing a stop sign removed by the Russians.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, which neighbours Kharkiv, said Ukraine had shelled a Russian border post, killing one person. The report could not be confirmed.

Ihor Terekhov, the mayor of Kharkiv, said that power and water had been restored to 80 per cent of the city’s population by yesterday afternoon.

Russian missile strikes on the power grid and Kharkiv’s biggest power station caused blackouts across much of eastern Ukraine on Sunday night.

The strikes were the first of such scale on essential civilian infrastruc­ture and drew a furious response from President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In a direct message to Mr Putin, he said the Russian leader had failed to understand whom he was fighting and insisted that Ukraine would not be deterred by such attacks.

“Read my lips: Without gas or without you? Without you. Without light or without you? Without you. Without water or without you? Without you. Without food or without you? Without you,” Mr Zelensky said, underlinin­g his country’s willingnes­s to shoulder the burden of driving Russian forces out.

Ukraine’s nuclear operator said the last reactor at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzh­ia nuclear power plant was shut down on Sunday.

Raphael Grossia, the head of the Internatio­nal Atomic Energy Agency, said that both sides had show “signs that they are interested” in agreeing a demilitari­sed zone around the plant.

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 ?? ?? Ukrainian troops advance in Kharkiv after routing the Russian army
Ukrainian troops advance in Kharkiv after routing the Russian army
 ?? ?? Ukrainian firefighte­rs douse a blaze after Russian rockets struck a power station in Kharkiv on Sunday, causing widespread power outages in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions
Ukrainian firefighte­rs douse a blaze after Russian rockets struck a power station in Kharkiv on Sunday, causing widespread power outages in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions

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