Zelensky lauds ‘liberation’ of Ukrainian territory
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has celebrated the reported advance of his troops amid their ongoing large-scale offensive in Kharkov Region in the country’s east.
“The movement of our soldiers continues in different directions of the front. To date, as part of active operations since the beginning of September, about 2,000 [square] kilometers of our territory have already been liberated,” he said in a video address late on Saturday.
Earlier in the day, The Russian Ministry of Defense acknowledged the withdrawal of its troops from multiple locations across the region. Over the past three days, soldiers stationed in the area have been “re-deployed” to territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic, the ministry claimed.
“In order to achieve the goals of the special military operation, a decision was made to regroup troops in the areas of Balakleya and Izyum in order to build up efforts in the Donetsk direction,” the Russian military said in a statement.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.