Ukraine demands more Western weapons after Russia pulls out | WKZO | All Kalamazoo

By Tom Balmforth

ZOLOCHIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is calling on the West to speed up deliveries of weapons systems as Ukrainian troops move to consolidate control of a large swath of recaptured northeast territory. Russia.

Since Moscow abandoned its main stronghold in northeastern Ukraine on Saturday, marking its worst defeat since the early days of the war, Ukrainian troops have retaken dozens of towns in a stunning shift in the momentum of the field of battle.

A senior US military official said Russia had largely ceded territory near Kharkiv in the northeast and brought many of its troops back across the border. This potentially means abandoning the only railway line that had supported Russian operations in the northeast.

Washington and its allies have supplied Ukraine with billions of dollars worth of weapons which Kyiv says helped limit Russian gains. In a video address on Monday night, Zelenskiy said Ukraine and the West must “strengthen cooperation to defeat Russian terrorism.”

He added: “Above all, expedite supplies of anti-aircraft systems.”

Washington last week announced its latest weapons program for Ukraine, including HIMARS anti-rocket systems, and has already sent NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine capable of shooting down planes.

Zelenskiy said Ukraine had taken back about 6,000 km2 (2,400 square miles) of territory, a slice of Ukraine’s total landmass of about 600,000 km2. The reclaimed land is approximately equal to the area of ​​the West Bank and Gaza combined.

Russia has taken control of about a fifth of Ukraine since its troops invaded on February 24.

RUSSIAN WITHDRAWAL

President Vladimir Putin and his top officials have remained largely silent in the face of the worst defeat by Russian forces since April, when they were pushed back from the outskirts of Kyiv.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dodged a reporter’s question on Monday whether Putin still had faith in military leaders.

“The special military operation continues. And it will continue until the initially set goals are achieved,” Peskov said.

Putin was shown on state television on Monday chairing a meeting on the economy at which he said Russia was holding up well in the face of Western sanctions.

“The economic blitzkrieg tactic, the assault they were counting on, didn’t work,” he said.

After avoiding the topic for days, the Russian Defense Ministry admitted on Saturday that it had abandoned its main northeast stronghold, Izium and neighboring Balakliia, calling it a pre-planned “regroup”.

As thousands of Russian troops retreated, leaving behind ammunition and equipment, Russia fired missiles at power stations on Sunday, causing blackouts in Kharkiv and adjacent Poltava and Sumy regions.

Since then, Russian forces have hit Sumy districts with more than 40 missiles and mortar shells, regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky said on Tuesday. Reuters was unable to confirm this.

On Monday, Russian strikes again disrupted electricity and water supplies in Kharkiv, killing at least one person, its mayor said.

The bombardment of residential areas and infrastructure sparked fires in the city throughout Monday, regional emergency services said on Facebook.

“As a result of the bombardments, five fires broke out. Administrative buildings and construction sites caught fire, along with a number of vehicles,” they said.

“PEOPLE ARE JOYFUL”

The British Ministry of Defense said on Monday that Moscow was struggling to bring supplies to the south, where Ukraine is trying to isolate thousands of Russian troops on the west bank of the Dnipro, forcing most Russian forces to withdraw. concentrate on “emergency defensive actions”.

A spokesman for Ukraine’s Southern Command said its forces had recaptured 500 km2 of territory in the south. The situation there could not be independently confirmed.

Further Russian retreats could soon put Ukrainian forces in a position to attack territory that Russia and its local proxies have held since 2014.

Denis Pushilin, head of the pro-Russian separatist administration in Donetsk province, said Ukrainian troops were continuing their attempts to advance on the frontline town of Lyman, east of Izium.

“(Our) units prevent this and do a good job of repelling them. I think the situation will improve,” Pushilin said in a video on Telegram.

He said things were “more difficult” in the town of Sviatohirsk, southeast of Izium, but neither side was in control. Reuters could not confirm this.

As Ukrainian forces closed in on territory seized from Russian troops in the north, cheery residents returned to their frontline villages for the first time in months.

“People are crying, people are happy, of course. How could they not be happy! said Zoya, 76, a retired English teacher, in the now quiet village of Zolochiv, north of Kharkiv and 18 km from the Russian border.

(Reporting by Reuters reporters; Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

Martin E. Berry