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Ukraine Advances in Counteroffensive, Wants More Arms

Ukraine’s dual-front counter-offensive is making strong gains and routing Russian troops, according to reports from both Ukrainian and Western officials.

The counter-offensive launched approximately two weeks ago was aimed at regaining two important cities, Kherson in the southeast and Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, in the northeast.

On Monday, September 12th, Ukrainian President Zolodymyr Zelensky announced that Ukrainian forces had retaken approximately 6,000 square kilometres of the country’s territory. 

Over the previous weekend, a Ukrainian military official had also boasted that troops had pushed the Russians out of thousands of square kilometres of Ukrainian territory in the area of Kharkiv.

“In the Kharkiv direction, we began to advance not only to the south and east, but also to the north,” General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said on Telegram. “Since the beginning of September, more than 3,000 square kilometres have returned under Ukrainian control.”

Though they have not offered specific numbers on territory, both U.S. and UK officials have confirmed that Ukraine is making significant advances in its counter-offensive. 

“Over the last 24 hours, Ukrainian forces have continued to make significant gains in the Kharkiv region,” the UK Defence Ministry said on Twitter Sunday, September 11. “Russia has likely withdrawn units from the area, but fighting continues around the strategically important cities of Kupiansk and Izium.”

On Tuesday, September 13th, UK intelligence continued to confirm that Ukraine was routing Russian troops, including the elite troops dedicated to defending Russia against a possible war with NATO.

“Elements of the Russian forces withdrawn from Kharkiv Oblast over the last week were from the 1st Guards Tank Army (1 GTA), which are subordinate to the Western Military District (WEMD),” the UK Ministry of Defence tweeted.

“With 1 GTA and other WEMD formations severely degraded, Russia’s conventional force designed to counter NATO is severely weakened. It will likely take years for Russia to rebuild this capability,” it concluded.

The successes of the counter-offensive have largely undone Russian gains made since April, when, repelled from Kyiv, it turned its focus to securing the territory between the Donbas region and Crimea. According to some reports, Ukrainian troops have even reached the Russian border in certain areas. Some Ukrainian civilians have joyfully returned home in areas where Russian troops retreated.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised Ukraine’s strategic offensive on Monday while acknowledging that its success was due in part to western support. 

“What they have done is very methodically planned out and of course it’s benefited from significant support from the United States and many other countries in terms of making sure that Ukraine has in its hands the equipment it needs to prosecute this counteroffensive,” Blinken said during a news conference in Mexico City.

On Monday, September 12th, Zelensky called on the West to continue to supply arms, reiterating his confidence that this winter would be the turning point in the war and could lead to swift recovery of all Ukrainian territory.

Washington announced a new arms package for Ukraine last week including ammunition for HIMARS anti-rocket systems, and has previously sent Ukraine NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems, which are capable of shooting down aircraft. 

European countries are becoming increasingly hesitant to continue to supply arms. 

Bridget Ryder is Spain-based writer. She has written on politics, environment, and culture for American and international publications. She holds degrees in Spanish and Catholic Studies.