A Ukrainian fighter stands on the top of a tank in Kharkiv

Kyiv Claims ‘Amazing’ Progress in Eastern Ukraine

A Ukrainian fighter stands on the roof of a tank in Kharkiv – Copyright AFP/File ISAAC LAWRENCE

Emmanuel PARISS with Dmitry GORSHKOV in Kyiv

Kyiv said on Saturday that its forces were advancing at lightning speed in the east of the country in a strike counter-offensive to recapture territory ceded to Russia shortly after Moscow’s February invasion.

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock arrived in the Ukrainian capital on a surprise visit that she said was meant to show Berlin’s support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

“Ukrainian troops are advancing in eastern Ukraine, liberating more and more cities and villages. Their courage, combined with the military support of the West, is producing amazing results,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said in a statement on social media.

“It is very important to continue supplying weapons to Ukraine. Defeating Russia on the battlefield means winning peace in Ukraine,” he added.

He assessed the pace of Ukrainian conquest after President Volodymyr Zelensky announced late Friday that his forces had recaptured some 30 towns and villages in northeast Kharkiv Oblast as part of a sweep.

The Ukrainian offensive appears to have taken Russian forces by surprise.

Moscow made a surprise announcement that it was sending reinforcements to Kharkiv, and footage appeared in state media showing tanks, artillery and support vehicles moving in columns along dirt roads.

– “It was scary” –

The largest city that has so far fallen back into Ukrainian hands is Balakliya, with a pre-war population estimated at around 30,000.

According to unconfirmed reports, the Ukrainians are moving further east.

The capture of urban hubs such as Kupyansk and Izyum would be a serious blow to Russia’s ability to effectively supply positions on the eastern front line.

In one of the villages captured by the advancing Ukrainians, power poles were knocked down, cables were scattered on the ground, and houses were gutted, AFP journalists report.

“It was scary,” Anatoly Vasiliev, 61, said, recalling a battle earlier this week in which Ukrainian forces recaptured the village from the Russians.

“There were bombings and explosions everywhere.”

– “We will be next to Ukraine” –

Burbock was in Kyiv on Saturday for her second trip to Ukraine, which came a week after Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal’s trip to Berlin, where he echoed Kyiv’s call to arms.

“Today I went to Kyiv to show that they can continue to rely on us. That we will continue to stand next to Ukraine for as long as necessary, and with the supply of weapons, and with humanitarian and financial support, ”she said.

In recent weeks, Germany has sent to Kyiv howitzers, rocket launchers and anti-aircraft missiles, part of an arsenal of Western weapons that observers say have undermined Russia’s supply and command capabilities.

Barbock’s visit followed that of US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who promised nearly $3 billion in military aid to Ukraine.

At a meeting in Brussels with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Blinken said Russia’s push to send reinforcements showed that Moscow was paying “enormous costs” in its quest to seize and then hold Ukrainian territory.

However, Russian forces continued to inflict serious damage with artillery shelling of Kharkiv and the industrial region of Donbass to the east.

The head of the Kharkiv region, Oleg Sinegubov, said that 14 civilians were injured as a result of Russian shelling.

Pavel Kirilenko, the head of the Donetsk region, which is part of the Donbass, said that two people were killed as a result of Russian shelling.

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