Ukrainian forces continue to make significant territorial gains in multiple sectors of the frontlines and appear to be greeted everywhere with open arms by civilians, some of which spent over six months under the thumb of Russian occupiers.
Videos like the one below have proliferated online as Ukrainian troops push rapidly through Russian lines in the north around Kharkiv and in the south around Kherson. Ukrainian forces in most places appear to be greeted with hugs, handshakes, and tears of joy by their liberated countrymen.
As Ukrainian armored vehicles rumble through towns held by Russian forces for months, residents line the roadsides to cheer in celebration.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the nation’s armed forces have liberated more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region.
“Our army, intelligence, and the Security Service of Ukraine continue active actions in several operational areas. They continue successfully,” Zelensky said in a statement on Sept. 9. “In some of the villages of the region, actions to check and secure the territory continue, we are gradually taking new settlements under our control – we are returning the Ukrainian flag and protection for our people everywhere.”
What initially appeared to be a limited offensive in the south around Kherson has erupted into a multi-front attack by Ukrainian forces that has sent Russian troops scampering in retreat.
Operational security concerns seem to have been thrown to the wind. Both troops on the ground and government officials of both Ukraine and nations supporting its war effort acknowledge the major advances made in fewer than 10 days of hard fighting. Even some Russian sources have been forced to abandon propaganda and recognize deep penetrations made by Ukrainians around Kharkiv.
Gains made by Ukrainians since only yesterday are impressive, as seen in the maps below. Ukrainian advances are punching deep holes through the front and into Russian-held territory.
Ukrainian forces have gone as far as the Oskil River in an apparent attempt to capture the strategic crossroads of Izyum. All the while, Ukrainian artillery has been pummeling Russian logistical routes of resupply and retreat.
Russian war correspondent Evgeny Poddubny posted images and videos to social media showing that Ukrainian forces have destroyed a bridge over the Oskil near Kupyansk, southeast of Kharkiv. The salient created by the Ukrainian thrust in that direction threatens to encircle thousands of Russian troops still in Kharkiv.
Footage from the bridge itself shows heavy damage that would likely make the span impassible to Russian reinforcements headed west to alleviate pressure on units in the city.
“Vladen Tatarsky,” a pseudonymous administrator of social media accounts linked to Moscow’s infamous mercenary group Wagner, has called for Russian-affiliated troops to abandon Izyum ahead of the Ukrainian assault.
One Russian Telegram channel claims that the commander of the 2nd Motorized Rifle Division already has done just that. He appears to have abandoned some of his own troops and fled Izyum.
One Russian reporter filmed his own desperate bid to get out of Izyum as quickly as possible.
With Ukraine on the offensive, the situation on the ground is shifting as fast as the actual troops in combat can post updates online. Before we get into the highlights from the past 24 hours, check out our previous rolling coverage here.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Sept. 9 for meetings with allied counterparts and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The two held a press conference after their meeting in which Blinken described Russia’s economy as severely distressed as a result of international sanctions and unable to provide ammunition for its forces fighting in Ukraine.
Russia “is turning to North Korea and Iran for badly needed supplies while Ukraine's military capability continues to get stronger, thanks to its leadership, thanks to the courage of its fighters, and thanks to the robust support from allies and partners,” Blinken said from NATO headquarters. “President Putin thought that our willingness to apply economic pressure would fade with time. Instead, we and our partners and allies have stuck together in the face of Moscow's coercion and threats, imposing unprecedented costs on Russia's economy.”
Blinken said more than 1,000 companies have abandoned the Russian market. Export controls on semiconductors and other technologies “mean that Russia cannot sustain, let alone modernize key sectors from automobile manufacturing to military exports to energy exploration,” he said.
As many as 500,000 people, many of them skilled workers, have fled Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February, Blinken said. The country’s foreign exchange reserves have tanked by $75 billion and another $300 billion in assets are frozen abroad, he said.
Asked whether NATO’s outpouring of military support for Ukraine was undermining its own collective security, Stoltenberg said that ensuring Russia does not win a war of aggression against a neighboring sovereign nation was fulfilling the alliance’s mandate.
“Weapons dominations that we are providing to Ukraine are used to stop the aggressive actions of Russia against an independent sovereign nation in Europe, which is a close partner of NATO,” Stoltenberg said. “If President Putin wins in Ukraine, it's not only bad for Ukrainians, but it is also dangerous for all of us. So, actually, by ensuring that Russia, that President Putin, does not win in Ukraine, we are also increasing our own security and strengthening the alliance by proving that we don't allow that kind of behavior close to our own borders.”
More than 80 percent of Russia’s total land forces are now engaged in or dedicated to the war in Ukraine, Stoltenberg said.
“So, of course, what happens there matters for the total capacity of Russia to pose a threat to any NATO allied countries,” he said.
As they retreat or are routed by Ukrainian forces, Russian troops have left equipment, vehicles, and ammunition behind. They also have fallen prisoner to Ukrainian troops in droves. One of those prisoners turned out to be Lt. Gen. Andrei Sychevoi, commander of Russia’s West Group forces. It is incredibly rare for such a high-ranking officer to be captured in modern combat and even more bizarre that he was leading troops from the very front lines.
More intense first-hand footage continues to pour in from the front, including the below rare bit of video shot from the Russian perspective. It features a Russian gunner sitting in the turret of a BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle, firing a machinegun when what appears to be an anti-tank guided missile makes a direct hit on the vehicle.
Russian online commentary suggests that Moscow rushed troops from the north around Kharkiv to the south when Ukraine began assaulting Kherson last week. That left areas of their northern lines vacant and without replacements to man those sectors, Ukrainian forces were able to wade through almost without a fight in some areas.
Evidence of valuable, and relatively undamaged, Russian military equipment abounds. Ukrainian soldiers in Kharkiv captured an intact transporter-launcher for a Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system as well as a fully-loaded 122mm BM-21 Grad multiple-launch rocket system in one place, as seen in the below video.
Ukrainians also came across a Russian 1L261 radar vehicle, a critical part of a Zoopark-1 counter-battery system.
Russian forces appear to be reinforcing units hit hard by the Ukrainian assault in some places around Kharkiv and Izyum. Wagner Group guns for hire are some of the troops being moved into the hardest-hit areas, according to Russian social media chatter.
The below video shows a uniformed Russian soldier with two Mi-26 transport helicopters turning rotors in the background. The below translation says the aircraft is loaded with soldiers headed to reinforce embattled Russian units around Kupyansk and Izyum. These helicopters are the largest in service anywhere and present large targets to enemy air defenses like man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), longer-range surface-to-air missiles, and even small arms fire. They are less agile than smaller assault aircraft and therefore more dangerous to fly at low altitudes where they are more likely to avoid enemy fire. It is some of the first footage of these very large helicopters in use in the war.
Russian forces also appear to have dropped more incendiary munitions on a Ukrainian position somewhere in the Donbas. The inaccurate munitions are designed to float super-heated burning shards of metal down on wide areas to start fires, set structures ablaze, cause horrific wounds, and promote fear.
All is not well at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, even after a team from the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was allowed access to the site last week. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi posted a video to his personal Twitter account and elsewhere on Friday calling for the immediate establishment of a Nuclear Safety and Security Protection Zone, or NSSPZ. A nuclear plant like Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest, “can never be a pawn of war,” he said.
Ukrainian artillerists are dedicating some of their shells to Queen Elizabeth II, the British monarch who died at 96 on Sept. 8. They are inscribing her names on individual 155mm artillery rounds, of which thousands are being fired daily, destined for Russian positions during the ongoing offensive.
We do have to note that while this latest news of progress may be encouraging, these gains are not assured. This conflict will likely go on for many more months or even years. Still, Ukraine's gains have been stunning and encouraging.
Contact the author: Dan@thewarzone.com