The Russian government has urged its citizens and administrative personnel to leave the Ukranian city of Kharkhiv as reports of Ukranian advances in the city continue to swirl.
According to Reuters, Ukrainian forces entered the strategic city of Izium after five months of Russian occupation, Kyiv officials said Saturday September 10.
Ukraine started a counter offensive on September 1 in the South Ukranian city of Kherson but surprisingly launched a simultaneous counter offensive in the North eastern city of Kharkhiv.
A senior Ukrainian official said that the “main artery” for Russian forces through the Kharkiv region has been cut off, and Ukrainian forces are also reported to have a new front against Russian defenses on the border of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Ukraine’s General Staff, in an operational update Saturday, said “the liberation of settlements that were temporarily captured by the Russian occupiers in the Kharkiv region and in the South Buh direction continues. For the safety of our servicemen, official information will be provided later.”
South Buh includes much of the southern front in Mykolaiv and Kherson.
The General Staff claimed “the command of the Russian occupying forces in the Kherson region is trying to strengthen the city of Kherson by deploying reserves. Thus, new enemy units have been spotted in the regional center.”
It also said the Russians were trying to restore traffic across one of several damaged bridges on the river Dnipro, but the bridge remained under the “fire control” of Ukrainian artillery.
Several social media videos show Ukranian forces in different parts of Kharkiv and Kherson mounting Ukraine’s flags. Another video shows locals welcoming Ukranian forces in the city.
A separate photo shows Ukranian forces posing in front of Izium’s sign post.
In its first response to the military gains made by Ukrainian forces in the last few days, the Russian Defense Ministry said that “the decision was made to regroup Russian troops” and redirect to Donetsk region.
The most senior Russian government official in the Kharkiv region, Vitaly Ganchev, provided a bleak assessment of the situation.
In a video message published on Telegram, Ganchev said:
“I again recommend to all citizens of Kharkiv region to leave the territory in order to preserve their lives. It is dangerous right now to be inside of your own homes.”
Ganchev, speaking from an undisclosed location, said, “We are ready to provide you with all the necessary help. Our representatives remain on the territory and are facilitating the evacuation of citizens.”
“Our Army is doing everything in their power of course. Even right now I can hear our military aviation working,” Ganchev added. But he acknowledged settlements in Kharkiv were under constant fire by Ukrainian forces.
Also, the Military-Civic Administration of the Vovchansk district, through which many Russian supplies travel toward the front lines, said in a brief Telegram post:
“Russian military are leaving Volchansk!! [Vovchansk] temporarily. City’s population continues to evacuate.”
The administration quoted a member of the Russian parliament, Evgeniy Evtushenko, as saying that the local headquarters would be moved across the border to the Russian city of Belgorod.
“In order to save civilians’ lives, Russian Armed Forces have made a decision to leave our city. [The] City’s administration will be moved to Belgorod. Its branches will be in Kursk, Yakutsk, Vladivostok and St. Peter[s]burg till the situation in the city stabilizes,” Evtushenko said.
“Russian armed forces will return control of all Russian land in Kharkiv region,” he added.
Vovchansk has been an important link in the Russian military’s supply chain from the Russian city of Belgorod, and it remained under Russian control even as Ukrainian forces retook some territory north and east of the city of Kharkiv in May.