Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a bold visit on Wednesday to the newly liberated city of Izyum in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine, where he took part in a flag-raising ceremony to commemorate the country’s most important military victory since Russian invaders were repulsed from the suburbs of Kyiv at the end of Martha.
“Heroes are here,” Zelenskiy said, describing the meaning of the blue and yellow banner. “So the enemy has gone, fled.
The swift and remarkably successful counter-offensive that liberated Izyum, towns and villages throughout the Kharkiv region proved to be both a decisive military victory and a psychological triumph, boosting national morale, bolstering international support for Ukraine, and prompting calls for more weapons and equipment. , hoping to capitalize on what appears to be a turning point in nearly seven months of war.
Western military and intelligence analysts say Russian forces appear to be severely depleted, largely incapable of offensive operations to retake positions, and potentially vulnerable to further attacks. The Ukrainian military, in turn, seems to be intent on continuing the counteroffensive in the east and south.
“We thank you all for the liberation of our state from the enemy — from the terrorists of the Russian Federation and from the traitors who betrayed our state with promissory notes of artificial republics,” Zelensky said, addressing the Ukrainian soldiers.
“The last few months have been extremely difficult for you. So I ask you: take care of yourself; You are the most precious thing we have,” he said.
Zelenskiy’s visit, appearing in army uniform and standing in front of the city’s bombed-out municipal building, was one of his many trips to the war zone that showed the contrast between the young Ukrainian leader and aging Russian President Vladimir Putin, who calls the war a “special military operation” and not visited his soldiers in the field.
Zelenskiy said on Tuesday that Ukraine had reclaimed just over 3,000 square miles in offensives in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions. Zelensky’s exact territorial claims could not be verified, but the Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged a major retreat, which it called a “regrouping” decision.
While the Russian military is struggling in Ukraine, Moscow’s finances are under the same mounting pressure. Government financial data released on Wednesday showed a sharp drop in oil and gas revenues in August due to sanctions and reduced energy sales to Europe.
The Russian economy staggered, but did not collapse under Western crackdowns, performing better than expected thanks to high energy prices and aggressive government measures to strengthen the ruble and prevent a collapse in the currency. But August Treasury earnings data signal a longer-term problem as Moscow gradually loses its most import energy market in Europe and is forced to settle for cut prices in Asia.
Russia has cut gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline in recent months and finally cut supplies this month to increase pressure on Europe and raise fears of a harsh winter as the continent tries to wean itself off cheap Russian gas. .
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen denounced Russia during her speech on Wednesday at the European Union for “actively manipulating our energy market.”
“They prefer to burn the gas rather than deliver it,” von der Leyen said. “This market is no longer working,” she added, warning that difficult months lie ahead for Europe as a result.
But von der Leyen, who was scheduled to travel to Kyiv on Wednesday for a meeting with Zelensky, said the sanctions would remain in place, praised Ukraine’s indomitability, and vowed that Europe would stand by the country. “Putin will be defeated, and Ukraine and Europe will win,” she said.
Von der Leyen insisted that Russia’s financial sector was “on life support” thanks to the sanctions, and its industry was “in ruins.”
On Monday, Putin said that “the economic blitzkrieg of the West, the onslaught they counted on, has failed, which is already obvious to everyone, and to them too.” Russia softened the impact of sanctions through social payments to families and pensioners and support for industry.
However, Russia’s heavy industry, including automotive and manufacturing, has been hit hard by Western bans on the transfer of computer chips and other technologies, as many Russian manufacturers are heavily dependent on imported parts.
The main, tacit calculation in Russia’s war with Ukraine is the Kremlin’s belief that Moscow can destroy the unity of the European Union in the issue of arms supplies, sanctions and financial support to Ukraine, using energy supplies coming winter and raising prices.
As the energy war between Russia and Europe heats up, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed warnings from European officials that Russia would be hit the hardest by a long-term shutdown of gas supplies to Europe.
“Europe is not the only consumer of natural gas and is not the only continent that needs natural gas to sustain rapid growth,” Peskov said on Wednesday. “There are regions that, by the way, are developing at a faster pace and have much more ambitious development programs. In these regions, the demand for gas will be able to compensate for the lack of demand in the European direction,” he told reporters during a conference call.
Earlier, Austrian Economics Minister Martin Kocher told reporters he was skeptical about a long-term halt to Russian gas supplies to Europe, saying it would be an “extraordinary burden” on the Russian economy. He predicted that gas prices would fall after a “difficult phase” this winter.
Following Ukraine’s stunning weekend offensive in the Kharkiv region, Zelensky and other senior Ukrainian officials stepped up calls for Western military assistance, publishing on Tuesday a proposal for security guarantees from a group of Western countries, calling for a multi-year effort involving large arms shipments. and industrial investment to bolster Ukraine’s armed forces against Russian aggression.
However, Peskov said that only Putin and the Russian leadership can give Kyiv real security guarantees. And he said that Ukraine’s appeal to Western countries for security guarantees proves that it still wants to join NATO. (Ukraine’s desire for NATO was the main reason that Putin called the threat of military action before the invasion.)
“Therefore, the main threat to our country remains,” Peskov said, adding that this proves the need for a “special military operation.”
Putin described the war as an existential battle for survival against NATO and criticized the sanctions as a failed attempt by the West to weaken and destroy Russia.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Western countries cannot maintain long-term military support for Ukraine, arguing that it would “burn them to ashes.” Imagine, this is proposed to be done by states that are now thinking how to survive the winter.
Zakharova said European citizens are suffering because of Washington’s demands, in what she called a “terrible bondage.”