By Jonathan Landay
KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukraine said on Tuesday its forces had retaken Russian-held villages north and northeast of Kharkiv in a counter-offensive that could signal a shift in the war pendulum and derail the war.
Tetyana Abachenko, the press officer of the 92nd Separate Mechanized Brigade, the main Ukrainian force in the region, confirmed that the Ukrainian forces have recaptured the settlements of Cherkasky Tishki, Russky Tishki, Borshova and Slobozansky in recent days, in the enclave north of Kharkiv.
Defense Ministry adviser Yuri Sais said these victories are pushing Russian forces out of reach of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city in the northeast, which has been the target of incessant bombing since the start of the war.
“The military operations of the Ukrainian armed forces in the Kharkiv region, especially in the north and north-east of Kharkiv, are a success story,” Sachs told Reuters. “The Ukrainian army has managed to push these war criminals to a line beyond their artillery range.”
In Washington, US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said that Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be preparing for a long conflict. He said that Russia’s victory in the eastern Donbass region may not end the war.
The head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency said the war had reached a stalemate.
But the counterattack near Kharkiv may signal a new phase, as Ukraine is now on the offensive after weeks in which Russia led a large-scale offensive but failed to make significant progress.
By holding off the Russian forces that have occupied the outskirts of Kharkiv since the beginning of the invasion, the Ukrainians are getting close to striking the rear supply lines supporting the main Russian strike force in the far south.
Since Russia was forced to abandon an attack on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in late March, its main forces have been trying to encircle Ukrainian forces in the Donbass, using the city of Izyum, south of Kharkiv, as a base. Ukrainian forces have so far resisted attacks from three directions.
But by striking back near Kharkiv, Ukraine could now force Moscow to try to defend its long supply lines to Izyum. Western military analysts say there are indications that the counterattack was already holding back Russia’s advance.
In the south, Russian forces again bombed the Azovstal steel plants in Mariupol on Tuesday, trying to seize the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in the city where Ukraine says tens of thousands of people have died during a two-month siege and bombardment by the Russians. .
The number of Ukrainians who have fled the country since the Russian invasion on February 24 was close to 6 million, according to the United Nations, which it says is the fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II.
(Additional reporting by Tom Palmforth in Kyiv)
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