Ukrainian-Russian War: Kharkiv Offensive on Map
Ukraine’s military says its troops have recaptured 3,000 square kilometers, three times the previous area, during a rapid counteroffensive in northern, eastern and southern Ukraine.
Although the BBC cannot independently verify Ukraine’s figures (with journalists having no access to the front lines), Russia’s Ministry of Defense has confirmed the withdrawal of its troops from three key cities.
If confirmed, the pace of the counterattack seems to have caught Russia off guard.
Here’s what we know about him.
Ukrainian counterattack in the north and east
On Thursday night (Sept. 8), Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky estimated that 1,000 square kilometers of land area had been reclaimed as part of the country’s counteroffensive, as shown on the map above.
By the evening of Saturday 10 September, that figure had risen to 2,000 square kilometers, with the president claiming that more than 30 settlements had been “liberated” in the Kharkiv region.
The main official of the Russian occupation of the Kharkiv region acknowledged that Ukrainian troops had won an “important victory”.
On Sunday (Sept. 11), according to the Reuters news agency, the Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said on Telegram that his country’s armed forces had regained control of more than 3,000 square kilometers since the start of the month.
This tremendous advance, if confirmed, means that troops in Kyiv have tripled their declared gains in just forty-eight hours.
Counteroffensives in the east allowed Ukrainian forces to penetrate the key Russian-held supply towns of Izyum and Kupiansk.
If held, it would be the most significant frontline change since Russia withdrew from the area around Kyiv in April.
What does Russia say?
Russia’s Ministry of Defense has confirmed the withdrawal of its troops from Izyum (the location shown on the map above) and Kupyansk, which it says will allow its forces to “regroup” in areas controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.
He also confirmed the withdrawal of troops from a third key city, Balaklyia, to “strengthen efforts” on the Donetsk front.
Kupyansk is Russia’s main supply hub in the east and the loss of Izyum – which Moscow had been trying to take for more than a month at the start of the war – would be seen as a major insult to president Vladimir Poutine.
The head of the administration installed by Russia in the Kharkiv region recommended that its residents flee to Russia “to save lives”.
However, the Russian Ministry of Defense’s daily report on Sunday, September 11, according to BBC Russia (the BBC Russian service), says nothing about troop withdrawals in the Kharkiv region.
British defense officials warned that fighting was continuing outside these towns.
Ukrainian advantage in the south
International attention is focused on the anticipated Ukrainian advance near the southern city of Kherson, as seen above.
This was the first city in Ukraine to be captured by Russian troops after the invasion, but Ukraine has recently been trying to retake its territory using new long-range artillery.
It was an important strategic city if Russia wanted to attack the Ukrainian port of Odessa, and Kherson was also important as a major water supplier for Russian-controlled Crimea.
Analysts believe Russia is redirecting some of its most experienced troops to defend the city.
Nataliya Gumenyuk, spokeswoman for the Ukrainian army’s southern command, said they had advanced “from two to several tens of kilometers” on this front.
But Russian troops fighting on the southern front are said to have held out on the defensive, and Ukrainian forces have faced stiff resistance since the start of the offensive.
What’s the current situation?
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the Ukrainian advance in the north-eastern Kharkiv province as a potential breakthrough in the six-month war. He said this winter could bring faster territorial gains if Kyiv could get stronger weapons.
This progress will also be seen as a sign that the Ukrainian military has the ability to retake the occupied territories, which is critical as Kyiv continues to seek military support from its Western allies, which are under pressure.
However, in an interview with the Financial Times, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov warned of the risk of a Russian counterattack.
“A counteroffensive liberates an area and after that you have to control it and be prepared to defend it. Of course we have to worry, this war has worried us for years,” Reznikov said.
Russian troops also still control about a fifth of Ukraine – so few imagined that this potential breakthrough on the Ukrainian side would end the war so quickly.