Ukraine “appears to have won the battle for Kharkiv”, said a US think tank.
The Russian military withdrew from its positions around Ukraine’s second-largest city “in the face of Ukrainian counter-offensives and the limited availability of reinforcements”, the Institute for the Study of War said ( ISW).
Russian units have been unable to hold ground against Ukrainian fighters over the past few days, the ISW said, and have been prevented from encircling the town in northeastern Ukraine.
However, as they retreated, they continued to bombard the eastern province of Donetsk in order “to exhaust the Ukrainian forces and destroy the fortifications”, the Ukrainian army said on Saturday.
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said the country was “entering a new – long-term – phase of the war”.
The comments came two days after a major Ukrainian victory at the Siverskiy Donets River, an area about 25 miles east of Kharkiv that Russia previously controlled. The battle ended with destroyed Russian tanks and other equipment littering the area around the river.
Ukrainian forces moved into some of the villages surrounding Kharkiv that have been controlled by Russia since the early days of the war, CNN reported.
The mayor of Kharkiv told the BBC that the Russians withdrew from the city and were heading towards the Russian border. Ihor Terekhov said that Russian troops had never occupied the city, but only entered it once and had not been there for some time.
“The Russians were constantly shelling Kharkiv because they were staying very close to the city,” Terekhov said. “Now it’s quiet in Kharkiv and people are gradually coming back to the city. We provide water, gas and electricity to all citizens. However, unfortunately, many residential buildings are destroyed or damaged. So, in the future we will have to do a huge reconstruction.
“There has been no shelling in the city for the past five days. There was only one attempt by the Russians to hit the city with a rocket missile near Kharkiv airport, but the missile was knocked out by Ukrainian air defense,” Terekhov said.
Separately, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief said the war is going so well that he expects it to reach a turning point by mid-August and end by the end of the month. year.
Major General Kyrylo Budanov told Sky News he was “optimistic” about the course of the war.
“The breaking point will be in the second half of August,” he said. “Most of the active combat actions will be completed by the end of this year.”
The same official correctly predicted when the invasion would occur, while other members of his government questioned the idea that Russia would start the war.
He now predicts that Ukraine will not only drive Russia out, but reclaim both the eastern breakaway regions known as Donbass and Crimea, which Russia seized in 2014.
“We know everything about our enemy. We know their plans almost the moment they are drawn up,” Budanov said. “Europe sees Russia as a great threat. They are afraid of his aggression.
“We have been fighting Russia for eight years and we can say that this much publicized Russian power is a myth. It’s not that powerful. It’s a horde of people with weapons.
Budanov also said that a coup to eliminate Vladimir Putin was already underway in Russia and that the Russian leader was seriously suffering from cancer.
His bold predictions were contradicted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who said in his evening speech that “no one can predict how long this war will last.”
With pole wires