According to a Washington-based defense think-tank, Institute for the Study of War, Ukraine “appear to have won the battle of Kharkiv”. The latest development comes on the back of Russian withdrawal from Kyiv and north-east Ukraine over a month ago.
The claims certainly seem to have some truth to them. Ukrainian military forces said that Russian troops are withdrawing from Kharkiv after weeks of heavy bombardment. As per the Ukrainian general staff, Russians were pulling back from Kharkiv — the nation’s second-largest city in the north-east — and instead choosing to focus on guarding supply routes, all the while launching mortar, artillery and airstrikes in the eastern Donetsk region in a bid to “deplete Ukrainian forces and destroy fortifications”.
Analysts were quick to point out that Russian forces had put up a measly excuse of a defense and not even attempted to hold their lines in the face of Ukrainian counterattacks. Russian military had “likely decided to withdraw fully from its positions around Kharkiv City in the face of Ukrainian counter-offensives and the limited availability of reinforcements”.
Khrakiv had been under Russian bombardment since day one of the invasion in February. The failure of Putin’s forces to capture the city just an odd 50 km from the Russian border has come back to bite them hard. Ukrainian forces fiercely fought on and prevented the encirclement of the city by the Russians, and then went on to expel them from the city in a similar fashion to what transpired in Kyiv.
Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s Defence Minister, said that Ukraine was in fact “entering a new — long-term — phase of the war.” He also warned of an “enraged aggressor” and predicted “extremely tough weeks” for Ukraine. However, the Russians seem to be going for an orderly withdrawal in the face of stubborn resistance.
In its latest assessment, the Institute for the Study of War stated, “Reports from western officials and a video from an officer of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) indicate that Moscow is focused on conducting an orderly withdrawal and prioritizing getting Russians back home before allowing proxy forces to enter Russia rather than trying to hold its positions near the city.”
The conflict is already in its fourth month with no end in sight. If the Russians were expecting an easy victory, they have seriously miscalculated their moves. But it is no easier for the Ukrainians who have had to defend every inch of their land, more often than not, without help from their neighbors and allies.