Speed Reads

'Russian terrorists remain terrorists'

Russia strikes major Kharkiv power plant, causing mass blackouts, after rout by Ukrainian forces

Ukrainian forces "inflicted a major operational defeat on Russia, recapturing almost all Kharkiv Oblast in a rapid counter-offensive" that, in the span of a little more than a week, pushed fleeing Russian troops out of 1,160 square miles of previously occupied territory, the Institute for the Study of War said Sunday night. The recapture of Izium, which Russia had been using as a key operations and logistics hub for its eastern campaign, "ended the prospect that Russia could accomplish its stated objectives" of capturing Ukraine's Donbas region.

Russia's Ministry of Defense acknowledged that its forces had left Kharkiv province, purportedly to "regroup," but Ukrainians in the newly liberated villages described a rout, The Washington Post reports, with Russian soldiers fleeing "any way they could," including "on stolen bicycles, disguised as locals," after leaving behind what appear to be large stockpiles of weapons, from rifles to tanks and stores of ammunition.

Russia responded Sunday with a missile attack on Kharkiv's TEC-5 power and heat plant, Ukraine's second-largest, cutting electricity to an estimated nine million people in Kharkiv and Donetsk provinces and parts of Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Sumy. 

Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov called the strike on civilian infrastructure "revenge by the Russian aggressor for the successes of our army." Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zekensky said "Russian terrorists remain terrorists," with "only the goal of leaving people without light and heat." 

The Ukraine Independent's Oleksiy Sorokin suggested the strike wasn't tactical brilliance, tweeting that "Russia fired 12 missiles, worth nearly $100 million in total ... to shut down electricity in four Ukrainian regions for several hours."

"It is too early to speak in overly triumphant terms," as Russia has the capacity to strike back and still controls about one-fifth or Ukraine's territory, retired Australian Maj. Gen. Mick Ryan writes. But "the current rout of the Russians is a significant and historical loss for the Russian army," leaving Moscow with "very few (if any) good choices in Ukraine."

"Ukraine's speedy advance helps its cause on many fronts, starting with a morale swing in its favor," The Wall Street Journal reports. "Ukrainian commanders now need to assess how hard to push ahead," working to "exploit their battlefield success" without advancing past their supply lines. 

"A counteroffensive liberates territory, and after that you have to control it and be ready to defend it," Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told the Financial Times.