by Tom Balmforth
ZOLOCHIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the West to speed up arms supplies as Ukrainian troops move to take control of vast northeastern territory seized from Russia.
Moscow relinquished its main stronghold in northeastern Ukraine on Saturday in its worst defeat since the first days of the war, and Ukrainian troops retook dozens of towns in a dramatic turnaround on the battlefield.
A senior U.S. military official said Russia has increasingly ceded territory northeast of Kharkiv and pulled more troops to the border.
Washington and its allies have given Ukraine billions of dollars in weapons that Kyiv says have helped limit Russian gains. Late Monday, Zelensky said in a video conference that Ukraine and the West must “strengthen cooperation to defeat Russian terror.”
According to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Ukraine’s military has made significant progress with Western support.
“What they did was very well planned and of course it benefited from a lot of support from the United States and many other countries to ensure that Ukraine had the tools they needed to prosecute this counterattack,” Blinken said at a news conference in Mexico City.
Washington last week ordered Ukraine’s latest weapons program, including ammunition for its HIMARS anti-missile systems, to send Ukrainian air-to-air missiles capable of hitting aircraft.
Zelensky said Ukraine had recaptured about 6,000 square kilometers (2,400 square miles) of territory, which is about 600,000 square kilometers of Ukraine’s total land area. The recaptured land is roughly equal to the combined area of the West Bank and Gaza.
Russia is silent
President Vladimir Putin and his top officials have remained silent in the face of the crushing defeat of Russian forces driven from the outskirts of Kiev since April.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday sidestepped a reporter’s question about whether Putin still had faith in his military leadership.
Peskov said: “The special military operation continues. And it will continue until the goals set at the beginning are achieved.”
Putin was seen on state television on Monday presiding over a meeting on the economy, where he said Russia was holding up well in the face of Western sanctions.
“Economic blitzkrieg tactics, counterattacks, didn’t work,” he said.
Sony (NYSE: ) Music on Tuesday joined a growing list of global companies that are transferring their businesses and musicians to local governments because of the conflict in Ukraine.
“As the war in Ukraine continues to have a devastating humanitarian impact and the sanctions against Russia continue to increase, we cannot continue to exist in Russia,” Sony Music said in a statement.
The war in Ukraine, a major supplier of grain, has also raised global food prices.
The International Monetary Fund’s executive board on Monday reviewed a plan to help Ukraine and other countries hit hard by Russia’s war, pushing for urgent financial aid for countries hit by food price shocks, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
‘People are happy’
As thousands of Russian troops retreated, leaving behind ammunition and supplies, Russia fired missiles at power stations, causing a blackout in Kharkiv and neighboring Poltava and Sumy regions.
On Monday, a barrage of gunfire on residential areas and infrastructure sparked a fire in the city, the state’s emergency services said on Facebook (NASDAQ: ).
Missiles around the Russian-controlled Zaporizhia nuclear power plant have raised concerns about radioactive contamination. The head of the IAEA said that the United Nations atomic watchdog has proposed the creation of a buffer zone around Europe’s largest nuclear plant, and that both sides are interested.
“We are playing with fire,” Raphael Grossi told reporters.We cannot continue as we are, one step away from a nuclear disaster. The safety of the Zaporizhzhia power plant hangs in the balance.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense says Moscow is struggling to bring reserves south, Ukraine is trying to isolate thousands of Russian troops on the west bank of the Dnipro River, forcing most Russian forces to focus on “urgent defensive measures”.
Ukraine’s Southern Command says it has recaptured 500 square kilometers of territory in the south and killed 59 Russian soldiers and destroyed 20 weapons in the past 24 hours.
The situation there could not be independently verified.
Ukraine’s presidential adviser, Oleksiy Aretovich, said the Ukrainian army was making progress in Donetsk and threatened to retake key towns lost by Russian troops after weeks of heavy fighting in June and July, across the Siverskyi Donets River.
Joyful residents returned to the front line for the first time in months as Ukrainian forces edged closer to Russian-held territory in the north.
“” People are crying, people are happy, of course. How can they not be happy!” said retired English teacher Zoya, 76, in the now quiet village of Zolochiv, 18 km north of Kharkiv and the Russian border.