By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The Ukrainian military claimed full control over the city of Balaklia in the northeastern region of Kharkiv along with other major advances after launching a counteroffensive earlier this month.
The military said on September 10 on Telegram that the Ukrainian flag was raised in Balaklia and its troops had entered Kupyansk, while Ukrainian forces were located on the outskirts of Lysychansk and fighting continued outside Lyman.
The announcements came after the Russian Defense Ministry for the first time since the start of the counteroffensive announced the withdrawal of its forces from two areas.
Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the troops would be regrouped from the Balaklia and Izyum areas to the Donetsk region.
Konashenkov said the move was being made to “achieve the goals of a special military operation” that requires “increasing efforts in the Donetsk direction.”
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) earlier confirmed that its forces had entered the strategically important town of Kupyansk in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region.
The SBU posted images on Telegram of a group of Ukrainian soldiers with the caption: “Specialists of the SBU’s special operations center “A” in Kupyansk, which was and always will be Ukrainian!”
An adviser to the head of the regional council in the Kharkiv region, Natalia Popova, posted a different picture on Facebook purportedly showing Ukrainian troops holding a Ukrainian flag in the town center with what appears to be a crumpled and burnt Russian flag at their feet. Ukrainian media have also published the report.
Kupyansk, located about 120 kilometers southeast of Kharkiv, is a transportation hub in eastern Ukraine and strategically important for supplying Russian troops in the Donbas region.
The region — anchored by Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv — was occupied shortly after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February and has been one of the focal points of a major, two-pronged Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine’s armed forces had liberated around 2,000 square kilometers of territory since the counteroffensive started.
“These last days the Russian army has shown us its best (side) — its back,” Zelenskiy said. “And, of course, it’s a good decision for them to run.”
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said during a press conference with visiting German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock that some allies initially had been hesitant to send weapons, citing the risk of antagonizing Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Now, thank God, we are no longer hearing this argument…we have demonstrated we are capable of defeating the Russian army. We are doing that with weapons given to us,” he said.
“And so I reiterate: the more weapons we receive, the faster we will win, and the faster this war will end.”
A Moscow-installed official in the Kharkiv region, Vitaly Ganchev, called on residents of areas previously under their control to evacuate.
“I once again recommend all residents of the Kharkiv region to leave the area to protect their lives and health,” said Ganshev, according to TASS.
“We are evacuating people from cities such as Izyum, Shevchenkovo, Balaklia, and Kupyansk, resorting to all our possible means,” Ganchev said on Russian television. “Crowds of people have already amassed at the checkpoints and we are currently deciding where they should be taken to, where they will be accommodated and provided with food.”
The head of the Ukrainian armed forces said Russian troops shelled Kharkiv with multiple rocket launchers starting at about 6:30 p.m. local time.
Kharkiv regional Governor Oleh Sinehubov said the shelling was in retaliation for the earlier successes of Ukrainian forces. He said one person was killed and two others were injured in the shelling of Kharkiv, which continued into the evening. Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said several private houses were damaged and one of them was on fire.
Russian-installed officials in Donetsk quoted by TASS said eight civilians were killed and 27 were injured by Ukrainian shelling overnight into September 10.
There is also mounting evidence that Ukrainian troops have made significant advances in the southern Kherson region, which has been the scene of major fighting for weeks.
The Ukrainian military said up to 1,300 paramilitary troops loyal to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov have arrived in the region to reinforce Russian forces.
The so-called Kadyrovtsy is a paramilitary force formed in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya that effectively serves as the region’s own army and which has been accused of rampant rights abuses.