Russia Pushed Back From Second Largest Ukrainian City

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Ukrainian defenders have pushed Russian forces some 40 kilometers back from the eastern side of the large city of Kharkiv, according to an assessment shared this Monday by a high-ranking U.S. official. Kharkiv is the second-largest city in Ukraine, and although Russian ground troops exited areas including the administrative jurisdiction around the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, aggression has continued in areas including the Kharkiv region.

Ruska Lozova, a settlement near Kharkiv, was recently reclaimed by Ukrainian forces, and the liberation was strategically substantial because the area had been used by occupying Russian troops to launch attacks on Kharkiv. “In the past two weeks, Ukraine has reclaimed about a half dozen villages in the area, bringing its forces slightly closer to Russian supply lines that run from the border to Izium [also spelled Izyum],” CNN notes.

Izyum is currently under Russian occupation. According to reports, Russian troops have sought to force local residents into Putin’s service. Kharkiv-area Governor Oleh Synehubov recently said Russian forces had moved a Kharkiv-area factory’s operations to Russia and set up a concentration camp on the left behind premises, and the governor indicated that similar violence against civilians was evidently unfolding in Izyum. “In the plant’s premises they have created a prison; a real concentration camp where people are submitted to torture, forced to cooperate, to join the Russian Armed Forces,” Synehubov said. That reported camp was set up in Vovchansk, which is near the border with Russia. Ukrainian human rights Ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova also shared similar reports.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, so-called filtration camps have been established where Russian forces have reportedly interrogated Ukrainian detainees in search of connections to the country’s democratically elected government and independent media. “Our information indicates Russia is abducting, torturing, and/or murdering locally elected leaders, journalists, and civil society activists, as well as religious leaders,” U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Michael Carpenter recently stated. Four such camps were reportedly set up around the devastated city of Mariupol, where tens of thousands are believed to have died amid months of indiscriminate Russian attacks. In other words, the stakes of this conflict remain existential.

“It’s just another piece of the stiff Ukrainian resistance that they continue to demonstrate,” that defense official said of Ukrainian efforts around Kharkiv. “And again to remind Kharkiv is important to the Russians because it sits at the very northwestern sort of lip or edge of that Donbas region.” The Donbas region, encompassing areas in the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, has recently become a focal point for fighting. Efforts to evacuate civilians from Mariupol are continuing after more than 100 of those who’d been trapped were gotten out of a bombed steel plant located in the city this Sunday, although evacuation efforts for those in the city and those at the plant are distinct. According to Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko, at filtration camps established by Russian soldiers, “men are deported to prisons and tortured. People are held there without food for two days or more, they sleep standing up.”