As the conflict in Ukraine enters its 200th day, the nation has taken back large portions of the south and east in a long-awaited counteroffensive that has severely hurt Russia.
The counterattack got underway in the last few days of August and initially concentrated on Kherson, a southern territory that Russian forces had swept in the first few days of the invasion. But just as Moscow refocused its efforts and deployed more troops there, Ukraine started a new, highly successful operation in Kharkiv’s northeastern sector.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the ecstatic president of Ukraine, taunted the Russians in a video speech late on Saturday, stating that “the Russian army in these days is showcasing the best that it can do – revealing its back.”
He uploaded a video of Ukrainian forces flying the flag over Chkalovske on Sunday, another town they had taken back from the Russians during the counteroffensive. The Kremlin faced its greatest hurdle since beginning the invasion on February 24 when Moscow ordered a troop withdrawal from Kharkiv due to the possibility of a significant portion of its soldiers being besieged.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the opening of a massive observation wheel in a Moscow park, a new transportation link, and a sports arena as the Russian soldiers were quickly retreiving from Izyum while being fired upon by the Ukrainians.
“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.”
In the biggest combat in Europe since World War II, both sides have incurred significant losses. Nearly 9,000 Ukrainian servicemen have died in combat, according to the military chief’s statement from a month ago. Moscow hasn’t released a report on its own casualties since March, but Western estimates place the death toll as high as 25,000; when you add in the injured, captured soldiers, and deserters, the total number of casualties for Russia is over 80,000.
More than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region have been recaptured by Ukrainian forces, the country reported, since the counteroffensive started.