Ukrainian forces have appeared to make successful advances near Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, the Associated Press reported. President Volodymyr Zelenszky mocked the Russians after the announcement of a retreat in a video released Saturday night.
“The Russian army in these days is demonstrating the best that it can do — showing its back,” Zelensky said. “And, of course, it’s a good decision for them to run.”
Last month, the Ukrainian army launched its counter attack in the south near Kherson and the east near Kharkiv. Those counter offensives came around the same time Russian President Vladimir Putin boosted his troop numbers by nearly 140,000. Russian forces have stalled in the country’s invasion that has now dragged on for more than six months.
Russian officials have even admitted recently that their operation in Ukraine has slowed, claiming the reason is to “avoid casualties among civilians.” It has been reported that 5,600 civilians have perished since the onset of the war, and there are allegations of Russia purposely targeting civilians.
Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, attempted to soften the blow of the retreat, saying Russian troops will “regroup” in the Donetsk region after leaving the Balakliya and Izyum areas, according to the AP. People in Balakliya reportedly celebrated as Ukrainian troops moved back into the area.
The announcement of a troop pullback from Russia’s Defense Ministry was made on the same day that Putin celebrated the 875th anniversary of Moscow’s founding, and the retreat has added to the criticism of Putin and his war.
“Most of these people are in shock and did not think that this could happen,” Dmitri Kuznets, a war analyst for the Russian-language news outlet Meduza, told The New York Times. “Most of them are, I think, genuinely angry.”