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Russians flee from Ukraine advances as Moscow ‘revenge strikes’ cause power blackouts

Ukrainian soldiers in Kharkiv said they had seen Russian commanders “literally running away” and soldiers changing into civilian clothes to escape Ukraine’s surprise offensive.

A Ukrainian soldier passes by a Russian tank damaged in a battle in a just freed territory on the road to Balakleya in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022. (AP Photo)© AP/PA Images

Ukrainian soldiers walk past a position abandoned by the Russians during the counter-offensive operation in Kharkiv region, Ukraine. Photo: Handout/Reuters© via REUTERS

Campbell McDiarmid  and James Kilner in KharkivTelegraph.co.uk

Russian troops were forced to abandon their positions around the entire northern region of Kharkiv back into Russia, its defence ministry admitted, a retreat that analysts described as a shock rout and a possible turning point in the war.

Ukrainian soldiers in Kharkiv said they had seen Russian commanders “literally running away” and soldiers changing into civilian clothes to escape Ukraine’s surprise offensive.

The impressive Ukrainian attack has recaptured dozens of villages and towns, some north of Kharkiv on the border with Russia, in what appears to be a near-total collapse of Russia’s front in the northeastern region.

Analysts said all of Russia’s forces were now fleeing the Kharkiv region and even pro-Russia military bloggers admitted the Russian front had collapsed in the area.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said around 1,158sq km had been recaptured.

“Our forces entered Kupiansk. The liberation of Kupiansk and Izyum districts of Kharkiv region are ongoing,” it said.

Several Ukrainian cities reported power outages last night, with Ukrainian bloggers and social media users reporting Russian missile attacks.

They said these were “revenge strikes” after the collapse of Russia’s army around Kharkiv. Russian channels on Telegram said at least two power stations in Kremenchuk and Kharkiv were struck by precision rockets last night.

Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters put out the fire after a Russian rocket attack hit an electric power station in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022. AP Photo/Kostiantyn Liberov)© AP/PA Images

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted: “A total blackout in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, a partial one in the Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy regions. RF terrorists remain terrorists and attack critical infrastructure. No military facilities, the goal is to deprive people of light & heat. #Russia IsATerroristState.”

The governor of the eastern Kharkiv region said Russian attacks on “critical infrastructure” had disrupted electricity and water supplies, while the head of the Dnipropetrovsk region claimed Moscow’s forces had “hit energy infrastructure” in retaliation for “defeat on the battlefield”.

Kupiansk and Izyum have been heavily fought over and their capture by Russia was heavily celebrated by the Kremlin earlier in the war.

They are also seen as vital hubs to resupply Russian forces in Donbas.

A video from Izyum shows five soldiers standing on the roof of a destroyed government building firing rounds into the air, waving the Ukrainian flag and shouting “Glory to Ukraine!”

Various videos show Ukrainian soldiers being warmly welcomed by Kharkiv locals with hot meals, flowers and hugs.

Amid the progress of Ukrainian forces, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said yesterday that Russia would be prepared to sit down for peace talks. Even the Russian ministry of defence has admitted that it can no longer hang on to territory around Kharkiv.

Ukrainian soldiers walk past a position abandoned by the Russians during the counter-offensive operation in Kharkiv region, Ukraine. Photo: Handout/Reuters© via REUTERS

During its daily video briefing by Lt Gen Igor Konashenkov, the Russian defence ministry spokesman, a map flashed up showing that the Russian defence ministry now considered only a slither of land to the east of the Oskil River to be under its control.

Lt Gen Konashenkov has been mocked by pro-Ukraine social media users. Russian military bloggers, meanwhile, are becoming increasingly frustrated with the Kremlin’s strategies.

“Not to say a word about the realities of what is happening around Kharkiv, means to betray those who fought there and are still fighting,” the pro-Russia blogger Military Informant told his 462,000 subscribers.

The scale of the Russian defeat around Kharkiv is only just emerging but videos and photos uploaded online show dozens and dozens of abandoned tanks and other equipment. Body armour and rifles, rations and clothes were also discarded by the fleeing Russian army.

Western analysts confirmed that Ukrainian forces looked to have captured most of the Kharkiv region.

“It seems now confirmed there is a general Russian withdrawal from Kharkiv Oblast,” said James Rushton, a British defence analyst based in Ukraine.

The US-based Institute for the Study of War was blunt with its assessment of how Russian forces had performed. “The Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kharkiv Oblast is routing Russian forces and collapsing Russia’s northern Donbas axis,” it said. “Russian forces are not conducting a controlled withdrawal.” (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)


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