Since the start of September Ukraine has made sweeping gains in the east of the country. What does it mean for the war?
[Clip of Russian troops in Kharkiv]
This mobile phone footage was filmed in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine on the 27th of February this year, days after Russia began its invasion.
In it, a man describes seeing Russian troops creeping along holding machine guns.
Their goal is to take a nearby airfield and factory, but then they’re ambushed.
[Clip of gunshots]
Ukrainian defenders forced them to retreat. A reminder of the stiff resistance that the invading Russian forces have encountered during this war. Even so they still managed to occupy key cities in the Kharkiv region, which is in the north east of Ukraine and borders Russia.
Now it’s been the scene of intense fighting yet again. This time though, it’s because of a Ukrainian counter-offensive, which has proved remarkably successful so far.
When Ukrainian forces began their fightback at the beginning of September it looked like their focus was on Kherson in the south, but it’s in Kharkiv where they’ve advanced most rapidly
“Alright, turning now to big news on the war in Ukraine where Ukrainian forces have made sweeping gains in the north east of the country.”CBS News
On the 10th of September Ukrainian troops entered Kupiansk, a vital eastern supply hub for Russian forces. They’ve also taken two other strategically important cities.
That matters because after failing to take Kyiv early in the war, Russia focussed its efforts on establishing full control of the Donbas region in the east of Ukraine. An area that’s been partly run by Russian-backed separatists since 2014.
And now it’s even struggling to hold that territory, so what does it mean for the war?
Since the start of the invasion, Ukraine has benefitted from a huge amount of international support in the form of humanitarian, financial and, importantly, military aid.
Thirty countries including the UK and the US have given equipment to help its forces resist the Russian invasion.
“The latest aid package announced the same day the Ukrainian prime minister was in Washington meeting with US president Joe Biden and military leaders. It totals 800 million in heavy artillery including seventy two howitzers, 144,000 rounds of ammunition and follows more than a billion in security assistance already sent to Ukraine.”Aljazeera News
But speaking six months into the war, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky voiced his concerns about the amount of military aid that’s now being pledged.
“Some leaders are already saying we’ve done so much. What do you want? What else do you want for me?”Volodymyr Zelensky
The rapid gains made by Ukrainian forces since the beginning of September show that they can beat the Russians in battle. The hope in Kyiv will be that it spurs its allies into sending more equipment.
But it doesn’t mean the war is nearly over.
President Zelensky claims that his Ukrainian forces have retaken more than six thousand square kilometres of territory since the counter-offensive started.
It’s not possible to know whether that’s entirely accurate because journalists aren’t being allowed anywhere near the frontline. Ukraine is tightly controlling the information war.
But plenty of footage has emerged of its troops raising the Ukrainian flag in previously occupied areas – and Russia has admitted losing key cities in the east.
“Triumphant scenes like this are playing out across eastern Ukraine. The national colours rising, Russia’s laid low.”Sky News
Russian troops have now withdrawn from most of Kharviv region and only control a small part of it.
But Russia still holds around a fifth of Ukrainian territory and Ukraine says its aim is to liberate it all.
To do that it will need to consolidate its recent successes whilst also finding the resources to take back other areas.
An aim that might be helped by the apparent lack of discipline or low morale amongst Russian troops.
The deputy commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces said that “what really surprises us is that the Russian troops are not fighting back.”
Photographs show hastily abandoned military vehicles and equipment. A Ukrainian General Staff report even said that Russian soldiers were ditching their uniforms, putting on civilian clothes, and trying to slip back over the border.
Few imagine a swift end to this conflict, but what we’ve seen in the east is an important psychological victory for the Ukrainian’s and one that demonstrates that with support it could, eventually, win.
Today’s episode was written and mixed by Lewis Vickers.