Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on the West to speed up deliveries of weapons systems as Ukrainian troops move to consolidate control of a large swath of northeastern territory retaken from Russia.
Since Moscow abandoned its main stronghold in northeastern Ukraine on Saturday, marking its worst defeat since the early days of the war, Ukrainian troops have retaken dozens of towns in a stunning shift in the momentum of the field of battle.
A senior US military official said Russia had largely ceded territory near Kharkiv in the northeast and brought many of its troops back across the border.
Washington and its allies have supplied Ukraine with billions of dollars worth of weapons which Kyiv says helped limit Russian gains. In a video address on Monday night, Zelenskyy said Ukraine and the West must “strengthen cooperation to defeat Russian terrorism.”
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Ukrainian forces had made “significant progress” with Western support.
“What they have done is planned in a very methodical way and, of course, it has had great support from the United States and many other countries to ensure that Ukraine has the equipment in its hands. it needs to continue this counteroffensive,” Blinken told a press conference. a press conference in Mexico City.
Washington last week announced its latest weapons program for Ukraine, including munitions for HIMARS anti-rocket systems, and has already sent NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine capable of downing planes.
Zelenskyy said Ukraine had taken back about 6,000 km2 (2,400 square miles) of territory, a slice of Ukraine’s total landmass of about 600,000 km2. The reclaimed land is approximately equal to the area of the West Bank and Gaza combined.
Russia has taken control of about a fifth of Ukraine since its troops invaded on February 24.
President Vladimir Putin and his top officials have remained largely silent in the face of the worst defeat by Russian forces since April, when they were pushed back from the outskirts of Kyiv.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dodged a reporter’s question on Monday whether Putin still had faith in military leaders.
“The special military operation is continuing. And it will continue until the initially set goals are achieved,” Peskov said.
Putin was shown on state television on Monday chairing a meeting on the economy at which he said Russia was holding up well in the face of Western sanctions.
“The economic blitzkrieg tactic, the assault they were counting on, didn’t work,” he said.
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Sony Music has joined a list of global companies leaving Russia, saying on Tuesday it was transferring the business and musicians to local management due to the conflict in Ukraine.
“As the war continues to have a devastating humanitarian impact in Ukraine and sanctions against Russia continue to increase, we can no longer maintain a presence in Russia,” Sony Music said in a statement.
The war in Ukraine, a major grain supplier, has also pushed up global food prices.
The board of the International Monetary Fund, under pressure to provide emergency financing to countries facing food price shocks, discussed on Monday a plan that would help Ukraine and other countries hard hit by the war in Russia, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
“People are happy”
As thousands of Russian troops retreated, leaving behind ammunition and equipment, Russia fired missiles at power stations, causing blackouts in Kharkiv and adjacent Poltava and Sumy regions.
The bombardment of residential areas and infrastructure sparked fires in the city throughout Monday, regional emergency services said on Facebook.
The shelling around Russia’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has raised serious concerns about the risk of a radioactive disaster. The UN’s atomic watchdog has proposed a protective zone around the nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, and both sides are interested, the IAEA chief said.
“We are playing with fire,” Rafael Grossi told reporters. “We cannot continue in a situation where we are one step away from a nuclear accident. The safety of the Zaporizhzhia power plant hangs by a thread.”
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Britain’s Ministry of Defense says Moscow is struggling to bring supplies to the south, where Ukraine is trying to isolate thousands of Russian troops on the west bank of the Dnipro, forcing most Russian forces to concentrate on “emergency defensive actions”.
Ukraine’s Southern Command said its forces had retaken 500 km2 of territory in the south, killing 59 Russian soldiers in the past 24 hours and destroying 20 pieces of equipment.
The situation there could not be independently confirmed.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Aretovych said Ukrainian forces were advancing in Donetsk and crossing the Siverskyi Donets River, threatening to retake key towns lost to Russian forces after weeks of heavy fighting in June and July.
As Ukrainian forces closed in on territory seized from Russian troops in the north, cheery residents returned to their frontline villages for the first time in months.
“People are crying, people are happy, of course. How could they not be happy!” said Zoya, 76, a retired English teacher, in the now quiet village of Zolochiv, north of Kharkiv and 18 km from the Russian border.