Ukrainian troops raise flag over railway junction as offensive threatens to turn into rout

Ukrainian troops raise flag over railway junction as offensive threatens to turn into rout

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  • Ukrainian breakthrough – the fastest progress in recent months
  • Thousands of Russian servicemen may be surrounded

KYIV, Sept. 10 (Reuters) – Ukrainian officials on Saturday shared photos of troops raising the national flag over the city, home to the main rail junction that supplied Russian troops in northeast Ukraine, as the collapse of Russia’s front line threatened to turn into a rout .

Natalia Popova, adviser to the head of the Kharkiv Regional Council, shared on Facebook photos of servicemen in front of the Kupyansk City Hall with the message: “Kupyansk is Ukraine. Glory to the armed forces of Ukraine.”

Soldiers are seen holding a Ukrainian flag with a Russian flag at their feet, with Ukrainian flags flying over City Hall behind them.

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The city, where railroads leading to eastern Ukraine converge with a highway from Russia, will be the biggest prize in this week’s stunning Ukrainian breakthrough after the Russian front line collapsed near Kharkiv.

Taking Kupyansk could potentially leave thousands of Russian soldiers trapped on the front lines and cut off from supplies.

In recent days, Ukraine has seized a vast swath of territory in the east with the fastest advance since it repelled a Russian attack on the capital Kyiv in March.

In a nightly video message, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that at least 30 settlements had been liberated in the Kharkiv region.

“Our army, intelligence units and security services are actively fighting in several operational areas. And they do it successfully,” he said in a video message.

Moscow has acknowledged that its front line has buckled in Kharkov, but has said it is urgently moving more troops to reinforce the area.

The head of the Russian-established administration in the occupied territories of the province called the offensive a Ukrainian victory and called on civilians to flee.

Ukraine has so far kept independent journalists out of the area, but officials have released a plethora of photos showing troops invading formerly Russian-held cities and cuddling with locals who have been under Russian military occupation for six months.

The Ukrainian offensive threatens to encircle a group of thousands of Russian troops in Izyum, the main Russian stronghold and logistics base in the northeastern sector of the front.

Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to the Office of the President of Ukraine, said in a video posted on YouTube that Russians in Izyum are practically isolated.

Referring to what he called reports from the front line, Arestovich said that hundreds of Russians had already died and several hundred more had been taken prisoner.

Reuters was unable to immediately verify reports describing the situation in Izyum. The Russian-appointed head of the Kharkiv occupation administration, Vitaly Ganchev, called Izyum one of the cities from which, he said, civilians should be evacuated.

PROMOTE

Ukraine’s advance is by far the fastest in recent months after a long period when the war turned into a relentless routine on fortified front lines.

Ukraine’s attack in the east comes as a surprise just a week after it announced the start of a long-awaited counter-offensive to retake Russian-occupied territory hundreds of miles away at the opposite end of the front in Kherson in the south.

Less information has been released about the operation, but Kyiv has also claimed some success by cutting off supply lines for thousands of Russian troops isolated on the western bank of the Dnieper.

“Now we are seeing progress in Kherson, we are seeing some progress in Kharkiv, and this is very, very encouraging,” US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said at a press conference in Prague on Thursday.

Tens of thousands have been killed, millions driven from their homes, and Russian troops have destroyed entire cities after launching what Moscow calls a “special military operation” to “disarm” Ukraine. Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians.

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Reporting by Reuters journalists; letter from Peter Graff; editing by Jason Neely

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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