Ukraine pushes big counteroffensive as war marks 200 days

Sep 11, 2022, 12:34 AM | Updated: Sep 12, 2022, 12:34 am
FILE - Ukrainian servicemen ride atop of an armored vehicle on a road in Donetsk region, eastern Uk...

FILE - Ukrainian servicemen ride atop of an armored vehicle on a road in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. As the war slogs on, a growing flow of Western weapons over the summer is now playing a key role in the counteroffensive, helping Ukraine significantly boost its precision strike capability. (AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)

(AP Photo/Leo Correa, File)

As the war in Ukraine marked 200 days on Sunday, the country has reclaimed broad swaths of the south and east in a long-anticipated counteroffensive that has dealt a heavy blow to Russia.

The counterattack began in the final days of August and at first focused on the southern region of Kherson, which was swept by Russian forces in the opening days of the invasion. But just as Moscow redirected attention and troops there, Ukraine launched another, highly effective offensive in the northeast, near Kharkiv.

Facing the prospect of a large group of its forces becoming surrounded, Moscow pulled back its troops from Kharkiv in a dramatic shift in the state of play that posed the biggest challenge to the Kremlin since it launched the invasion Feb. 24.

“The Ukrainian army has taken advantage of the relocation of the bulk of the Russian forces to the south and is trying to direct the course of the war, excelling in maneuver and showing great ingenuity,” said Mykola Sunhurovskyi, a military expert with the Razumkov Centre, a Kyiv-based think tank. Ukraine’s quick gains, he added, are “important both for seizing initiative and raising troops’ spirit.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the military in a video address Saturday night, saying it has reclaimed about 2,000 square kilometers (over 770 square miles) of territory so far this month. He also taunted Moscow over its withdrawal, saying the Russian army was “demonstrating the best it can do — showing its back” and “they made a good choice to run.”

The Russian military debacle has provoked outrage among Russian military bloggers and patriotic commentators, who chastised the Kremlin for failing to mobilize more forces and take stronger action against Ukraine. Even Ramzan Kadyrov, the Moscow-backed leader of the Russian region of Chechnya, publicly criticized the Russian Defense Ministry for what he called “mistakes” that made the Ukrainian blitz possible.

Both sides have suffered heavy losses in Europe’s largest conflict since World War II. Ukraine’s military chief said last month that nearly 9,000 of its soldiers have been killed in action. And while Moscow hasn’t reported its own losses since March, Western estimates put the toll as high as 25,000 dead, with the wounded, captured and deserters bringing the overall Russian losses to more than 80,000.

Ukraine has sought to mobilize the population to reach an active military of 1 million people, while Russia, in contrast, has continued to rely on a limited contingent of volunteers for fear that a mass mobilization could fuel discontent and upset internal stability.

As the war slogs on, a growing flow of Western weapons over the summer is playing a key role in the counteroffensive, helping Ukraine significantly boost its precision strike capability.

Since the counteroffensive began, Ukraine said, its forces have reclaimed more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region.

In the Kherson region, troops sought to drive Russian forces from their foothold on the west bank of the Dnieper River, a potential vantage point for a push deeper into Ukraine by Moscow.

The Ukrainian General Staff said Russian forces had also left several settlements in the region but did not identify the towns.

The city of Kherson, an economic hub at the confluence of the Dnieper and the Black Sea with a prewar population of about 300,000, was the first major population center to fall in the war.

Russian forces also have made inroads into the Zaporizhzhia region farther north, where they seized Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. The last of its six reactors was shut down Sunday after operating in a risky “island mode” for several days to generate electricity for the plant’s crucial cooling systems after one of the power lines was restored.

Moscow has installed puppet administrations in occupied areas, introduced its currency, handed out Russian passports and prepared for local plebiscites to pave the way for annexation. But the counteroffensive has derailed those plans, with a top Moscow-backed official in Kherson saying the vote there needs to be put off.

The counterattack followed methodical strikes on Russian infrastructure and supply lines. Ukrainian forces have used U.S.-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launchers to pound the two bridges on the Dnieper, forcing Russian troops in the Kherson region to rely on pontoon crossings that also have faced daily strikes.

Last month, a series of explosions also hit airbases and a munitions depot in Crimea, underlining the vulnerability of the peninsula that was annexed by Russia in 2014 and has been crucial for its southern operations. Ukrainian authorities initially refrained from claiming responsibility, but the country’s military chief, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyy, acknowledged in recent days that his forces hit them with rockets.

Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said Kyiv “has used the tactics of methodically exhausting the Russian army, weakening it and depriving it of a possibility to regularly beef up its forces.”

Unlike in the south, where Ukraine’s counteroffensive proceeded more slowly on the barren steppes of Kherson that left troops vulnerable to Russian artillery, the Kharkiv region’s forests offered natural cover that allowed for lightning-fast surprise attacks from multiple directions.

“Swiftness and surprise have become key components of the Ukrainian army action in the Kharkiv region after Russian forces deployed there had been relocated to the south,” Zhdanov said.

Michael Kofman, an expert on the Russian military at the Virginia-based think tank CNA, said the counteroffensive “has proven a very significant victory for Ukraine.”

“Russian forces appear to have been spread thinly, and military leadership unprepared despite earlier evidence of Ukrainian buildup,” Kofman wrote. “I think it’s fair to assess that Russia was caught by surprise with little in the way of reserves locally available.”

After capturing the town of Balakliia, about 55 kilometers (about 34 miles) southeast of Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces quickly pressed their offensive farther east to Kupiansk, a rail hub vital for sustaining Russian operations in the region.

They claimed control of the strategic city Saturday, cutting supply lines to a big group of Russian forces around Izyum to the south. To prevent their complete encirclement, Moscow ordered the hasty retreat, claiming they were relocating to focus on the neighboring Donetsk region.

Zhdanov noted that a successful counteroffensive is key to persuading allies to further increase supplies of weapons to Ukraine, something that was discussed Thursday at a NATO meeting in Germany.

“The events in the south and in the Kharkiv region must show to the West that the Ukrainian military knows how to handle the weapons and needs to develop their success,” Zhdanov said.

___

Yuras Karmanau in Kyiv contributed.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              FILE - People walk past a billboard with a portrait of a Russian soldier awarded for action in Ukraine and the words "Glory to the heroes of Russia" in St. Petersburg, Russia, Monday, Sept. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky, File)
            
              FILE - Alima Tatiyeva, widow of Nurlan Tatiyev, Russian soldier who was killed in battles in Ukraine cries during a ceremony of handing over the Orders of Courage to families of killed soldiers in Volgograd, Russia, Thursday, June 30, 2022. (AP Photo, File)
            
              FILE - Soldiers carry the body of Viacheslav Nalyvaiko, a Ukrainian military officer killed during fighting against Russians, during his funeral in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022. As the war slogs on, a growing flow of Western weapons over the summer is now playing a key role in the counteroffensive, helping Ukraine significantly boost its precision strike capability. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti, File)
            
              FILE - Russian servicemen guard an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and among the 10 largest in the world in Enerhodar, Zaporizhzhia region, in territory under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, Sunday, May 1, 2022. This photo was taken during a trip organized by the Russian Ministry of Defense. (AP Photo, File)
            
              FILE - In this photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on July 2, 2022, a Russian Su-25 ground attack jet fires rockets on a mission at an undisclosed location in Ukraine. Six months ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine starting the largest military conflict in Europe since World War II. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - In this handout photo taken from video and released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on July 30, 2022, Russian Army soldiers leave a military helicopter during a mission at an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - In this handout photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service released on June 1, 2022, The Russian military's Uragan multiple rocket launchers fire rockets at Ukrainian troops at an undisclosed location. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - Russian rockets launched against Ukraine from Russia's Belgorod region are seen at dawn in Kharkiv, Ukraine, early Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. As the war slogs on, a growing flow of Western weapons over the summer is now playing a key role in the counteroffensive, helping Ukraine significantly boost its precision strike capability. (AP Photo/Vadim Belikov, File)
            
              FILE - In this handout photo taken from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022, Russian paratroopers are seen on a mission on the Nikolaev-Krivoy Rog direction in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - In this handout photo taken from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Monday, Aug. 29, 2022, a Russian soldier fires from a Kornet, a Russian man-portable anti-tank guided missile on a mission at an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - In this handout photo taken from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, Russian military vehicles drive to the Kharkiv direction on a mission in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - Soldiers of Ukraine's special operations unit carry anti-tank mines to install them on the Russian troops' potential way in a forest in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, late Tuesday, June 14, 2022. As the war slogs on, a growing flow of Western weapons over the summer is now playing a key role in the counteroffensive, helping Ukraine significantly boost its precision strike capability. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)
            
              FILE - In this handout photo taken from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, Russian military vehicles drive to the Kharkiv direction on a mission in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)
            
              FILE - A Ukrainian soldier takes a selfie as an artillery system fires in the front line in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. As the war slogs on, a growing flow of Western weapons over the summer is now playing a key role in the counteroffensive, helping Ukraine significantly boost its precision strike capability. (AP Photo/Kostiantyn Liberov, File)
            FILE - Ukrainian servicemen prepare to fire at Russian positions from a U.S.-supplied M777 howitzer in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, July 14, 2022. Supplies of Western weapons, including U.S. HIMARS multiple rocket launchers, has significantly boosted the Ukrainian military's capability, allowing it to target Russian munitions deports, bridges and other key facilities with precision and impunity. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File) FILE - A launch truck fires the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) produced by Lockheed Martin during combat training in the high desert of the Yakima Training Center, Washington on May 23, 2011. Ukraine has received about a dozen American-built HIMARS multiple rocket launchers and has used them to strike Russian ammunition depots, which are essential for maintaining Moscow's edge in firepower. (Tony Overman/The Olympian via AP, File)

AP

Metal detectorist Denise Schoener, of Hanson, Mass., searches for historic coins and artifacts in a...
Associated Press

Murderous 1600s pirate hid out in US colonies with impunity

WARWICK, R.I. (AP) — One tarnished silver coin at a time, the ground is yielding new evidence that in the late 1600s, one of the world’s most ruthless pirates wandered the American colonies with impunity. Newly surfaced documents also strengthen the case that English buccaneer Henry Every — the target of the first worldwide manhunt […]
1 day ago
FILE - Protesters throw bottles glasses at the Lebanese Central Bank building, background, where th...
Associated Press

Lebanese banks battered by meltdown struggle to survive

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s once burgeoning banking sector has been hard hit by the country’s historic economic meltdown. It has suffered staggering losses worth tens of billions of dollars and many of the small nation’s lenders now face possible closures or mergers. Yet bankers have been resisting attempts to make their shareholders assume responsibility for […]
1 day ago
FILE - Michael Stonebarger sorts young cannabis plants at a marijuana farm operated by Greenlight, ...
Associated Press

Marijuana now legal in Missouri, but you can’t buy it yet

O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — As of Thursday, it’s lawful for adults to possess and use marijuana in Missouri. That doesn’t mean you can legally buy it just yet, or use it everywhere. Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since a ballot measure passed in 2018, but voters went a step further this November […]
1 day ago
FILE - A crane prepares to unload a container from a semi-trailer truck at the Aomi wharf in Tokyo ...
Associated Press

Japan’s economy shrank less in July-Sept, revised data show

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s economy contracted less than previously thought in the last quarter, weathering the country’s latest big COVID wave with less damage than had been thought. The Cabinet Office reported Thursday that the economy shrank at a 0.8% annual rate in July-September. That was better than minus 1.2% annual growth reported earlier. In […]
1 day ago
South Korean Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho, center, speaks during a news conference at the governm...
Associated Press

South Korea widens back-to-work orders on striking truckers

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s government expanded its back-to-work orders Thursday against thousands of cargo truck drivers who are staging a nationwide walkout over freight fare issues, saying a prolonged strike could inflict “deep scars” on the country’s economy. The “work start” orders on steel and fuel truckers were inevitable because the strike […]
1 day ago
Peter Møller, center, attorney and co-founder of the Danish Korean Rights Group, submits the docum...
Associated Press

South Korea’s truth commission to probe foreign adoptions

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission will investigate the cases of dozens of South Korean adoptees in Europe and the United States who suspect their origins were falsified or obscured during a child export frenzy in the mid- to late-1900s. The decision Thursday opens what could be South Korea’s most […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Ukraine pushes big counteroffensive as war marks 200 days