President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the West to speed up deliveries of weapons systems to back the advance. Since Moscow abandoned its main bastion in northeastern Ukraine on Saturday, marking its worst defeat since the early days of the war, Ukrainian troops have recaptured dozens of towns in a stunning shift in battleground momentum.
Fighting was still raging in the northeastern Kharkiv region, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar told Reuters on Tuesday, saying Ukraine’s forces were making good progress because they are highly motivated and their operation is well planned.
“The aim is to liberate the Kharkiv region and beyond – all the territories occupied by the Russian Federation,” she said on the road to Balakliia, a crucial military supply hub recaptured by Ukrainian forces late last week which lies 74 km (46 miles) southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
In a video address late on Monday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said the West must speed up deliveries of weapons systems, calling on Ukraine’s allies to “strengthen cooperation to defeat Russian terror”.
Since Russia’s February 24 invasion, Washington and its allies have provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in weapons that Kyiv says have helped limit Moscow’s gains. Russian forces control around a fifth of the country in the south and east but Ukraine is now on the offensive in both areas.
A video issued by Ukraine’s border guards service showed what it said were Ukrainian troops liberating the town of Vovchansk near the country’s border with Russia, burning down flags and tearing down a poster saying “We are one with Russia”.
President Zelensky said Ukraine had recaptured roughly 6,000 square km (2,400 square miles) of territory, double what officials had cited on Sunday.
A sliver of Ukraine’s land mass of around 600,000 square km, it is approximately equivalent to the combined area of the West Bank and Gaza.
After being pushed back from the capital Kyiv soon after its invasion, Russia refocused on capturing territory adjacent to Crimea in the south which it annexed in 2014 and in Donetsk and Luhansk in the industrial Donbas in eastern Ukraine, which separatists claimed the same year.
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Mr Zelensky’s advisor, Mykhailo Podolyak, spelt out why Ukraine needed more weapons, saying that firstly, it needed air defence to protect its civilians and critical infrastructure.
“Second, Luhansk/Donetsk liberation will cause a domino effect, collapse ru-frontline and lead to political destabilisation. It is possible. Weapons required,” he wrote on Twitter.
Russia denies targeting civilians, saying that what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine is designed to degrade its neighbour’s military.