Ukraine says Russia has withdrawn from Kharkiv, but continues its offensive in the east

Latest political developments

  • Putin warns the Finnish president not to join NATO.
  • Group of Seven foreign ministers pledge to continue economic pressure on Russia.
  • The G7 asks China to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and “not to help Russia in its war of aggression”.

War Day 80 Terrain Updates

  • No bombardment on Kharkiv since the day before, said the regional governor of the region.

  • Ukrainian forces recaptured six towns or villages in the past day, President Volodymyr said said Zelensky.

  • The Russian offensive in the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine has created village-by-village battles.
  • Zelensky says Ukraine is in “complex talks” over the evacuation of wounded fighters from the Mariupol steel plant.​​​

Russian troops are withdrawing from Ukraine’s second-largest city after weeks of heavy shelling, the Ukrainian military announced on Saturday as forces from kyiv and Moscow fought a fierce battle for the east of the country.

Ukraine’s general staff said the Russians were withdrawing from the northeastern city of Kharkiv and focusing on protecting supply routes, while launching mortars, artillery and strikes in the eastern region of Donetsk in order to “exhaust the Ukrainian forces and destroy the fortifications”.

Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine was “entering a new long-term phase of the war”.

WATCH | Ukraine claims victory in the battle for its second largest city:

Ukrainian officials claim victory in Kharkiv

Ukraine’s military said Russian forces are now withdrawing from the country’s second-largest city and concentrating on the eastern region of Donetsk.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian forces had also advanced in the east, retaking six towns or villages over the past day. In his Saturday evening speech, he said that “the situation in Donbass remains very difficult” and that Russian troops “are still trying to emerge at least somewhat victorious”.

“Step by step, we are forcing the occupiers out of Ukrainian land,” he said.

The Russian offensive in Donbass, the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, appears to be turning into a back-and-forth village-by-village with no major breakthrough on either side. After failing to capture kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, the Russian army has decided to concentrate on the Donbass, but its troops are struggling to gain ground.

“The Russians really haven’t done much in terms of tactical gains recently,” one Western official said, describing the war’s front line as “swinging.”

Expected “Long Battle of Attrition”

“The Ukrainians continue to launch counterattacks, especially around Kherson and Kharkiv. We expect this to turn into a long battle of attrition,” the official said on condition of anonymity to discuss the information.

Ukraine “appears to have won the battle for Kharkiv,” said the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank. “Ukrainian forces prevented Russian troops from encircling, let alone seizing Kharkiv, then driving them out of the city, as they did Russian forces trying to seize Kyiv. ”

Regional Governor Oleh Sinegubov said via the Telegram messaging app that there had been no bombing attacks on Kharkiv over the past day. He added that Ukraine had launched a counteroffensive near Izyum, a town 125 kilometers south of Kharkiv that has been held by Russia since at least early April.

The Ukrainian military chief of the Luhansk region in the Donbass said on Friday that the troops had almost complete control of Rubizhne, a city which had a population of about 55,000 before the war.

Fighting was fierce on the Siversky Donets River near the city of Severodonetsk, where Ukraine launched counterattacks but failed to halt Russia’s advance, military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said. independent Ukrainian.

People gather on Friday after a Russian bombardment hit the House of Culture in Derhachi, which was used to distribute aid, just northwest of Kharkiv, Ukraine. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

“The fate of a large part of the Ukrainian army is being decided – there are around 40,000 Ukrainian soldiers,” he said.

However, Russian forces suffered heavy casualties in a Ukrainian attack that destroyed a pontoon bridge they were using to try to cross the river at Bilohorivka, Ukrainian and British officials said, in another sign of the struggle. of Moscow to save a war gone wrong.

Russia faces continued economic pressure

In other developments, foreign ministers from the G7 group of nations pledged on Saturday to deepen Russia’s economic and political isolation, continue to supply arms and work to ease global food shortages resulting from the war in Ukraine, according to a joint statement.

The foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the United States and the European Union pledged to continue their military and defense assistance “as long as necessary”.

In a statement after their meeting in Weissenhaus, Germany, ministers also warned that the war in Ukraine is fueling a global food and energy crisis that threatens poor countries, and that urgent action is needed to release grain stocks that the Russia prevents leaving Ukraine.

The G7 asked China to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence, and “not to help Russia in its war of aggression”.

New tensions over Finland’s NATO membership

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the war in Ukraine in an attempt to thwart NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe. But the invasion is raising fears in other countries on Russia’s flank that they could be next, and this week Finland’s president and prime minister said they were in favor of joining the NATO. Swedish officials are expected to announce a decision on Sunday on whether to apply to join the Western military alliance.

In a phone call on Saturday, Putin told Finnish President Sauli Niinisto that there was no security threat to Finland and that joining NATO would be a “mistake” and would “negatively affect Russian-Russian relations.” Finnish”.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko also said on Saturday that the countries joining NATO would heighten security tensions in the Arctic, “turning it into an arena of military competition”.

“Complex talks” on the evacuation of wounded fighters

Ukraine’s president said in a late-night speech on Friday that very difficult talks were underway to evacuate “a large number” of injured soldiers from a besieged steelworks in the strategic port of Mariupol, in the southeast, in exchange for the release of Russian prisoners of war.

Mariupol, which has seen the heaviest fighting in nearly three months of war, is now in Russian hands, but hundreds of Ukrainian defenders are still holding out at the Azovstal steelworks despite weeks of heavy Russian bombardment.

WATCH | Finland will submit its application for NATO membership:

Finland to apply to join NATO

Finnish leaders have announced their intention to apply to join NATO following the war in Ukraine. It’s a move that would upend nearly 80 years of non-alignment.

Fierce Ukrainian resistance, which military analysts say Putin and his generals did not anticipate when they launched the invasion on February 24, has also slowed and in some places reversed Russian advances around Ukraine. .

“Right now, very complex negotiations are going on about the next phase of the evacuation mission, the evacuation of the seriously injured, the doctors,” Zelensky said.

He said “influential” international intermediaries were involved in the talks, without giving further details. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told local television on Saturday that efforts were now focused on evacuating around 60 people, including the most seriously injured as well as medical personnel.

An adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, Petro Andryushenko, said via Telegram that a convoy of 500 to 1,000 cars carrying civilians from the city had been allowed to enter Ukrainian-controlled territory.

NATO member Turkey has offered to evacuate wounded fighters holed up in the Mariupol steelworks by sea, President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Saturday.

Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters in an interview that he personally discussed the proposal with Ukraine’s president in Kyiv two weeks ago and that it remains “on the table”, although Moscow has not accepted it.

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