Ukraine launches surprise attack near Kharkiv in bid to push back Russians

Reports have emerged of an assault on Balakliya, an occupied town in the east of the country

and 6 September 2022

Ukrainian forces launched a surprise offensive against Russian positions in the east of the country in an apparent expansion of their efforts to roll back the invasion.

Ukrainian servicemen stop to rest during fighting in Kharkiv, with Russian troops now pushed back CREDIT: Mstyslav Chernov/AP Photo

Reports of a Ukrainian attack on Balakliya, a Russian-held town about 43 miles southeast of Kharkiv, emerged on unofficial Ukrainian and Russian Telegram on Wednesday afternoon.

The Ukrainian ministry of defence did not comment on the reports.

Anton Gerashchenko, a former Ukrainian MP, said: “They are promising good news from the Kharkiv direction, maybe Balakliya.”

The Grey Zone, a popular Russian war blog, said it had spoken to open and private sources confirming the Ukrainian attack and said they may have managed to seize key bridges to allow them to reinforce near the city. The reports could not immediately be confirmed.

Another pro-Russian Telegram channel claimed there was “no panic” and that reserves were being sent to the town. It said there was no “deep breakthrough”.

Balakliya lies on a bend of the Siversky Donets river to the west of Izyum, a city that Russia turned into a stronghold for its summer offensive into the Donbas in the summer.

Firefighters in Kharkiv
Russian military sources had revealed concerns over an unusual build-up of Ukrainian forces in the Kharkiv region CREDIT: Anadolu Agency

Control of Balakliya could facilitate a Ukrainian attempt to encircle or partially encircle Izyum, said Kyiv-based military analyst Oleh Zhdanov.

Announcing the apparent counter-attack, Serhiy Leshchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s presidential office, said there would be “great news from President Zelensky on counter-offensive operation in Kharkiv region”. He later deleted the social media post.

A pro-Ukrainian channel on the Telegram shared a picture of Ukrainian troops riding on an armoured personnel carrier through the town of Balakliya.

It also shared an unverified account from a Ukrainian soldier that said Kyiv’s forces had liberated more than 10km of Russian-held territory.

In the weeks before the surprise attack, Russian military sources revealed concerns over an unusual build-up of Ukrainian forces in the Kharkiv region.

Building in Kharkiv
Firefighters douse a building in Kharkiv CREDIT: Anadolu Agency
Man with guinea pig
A resident brings a guinea pig to safety after his Kharkiv apartment was hit CREDIT: SergeyBobok/AFP

Western analysts said Moscow’s inability to fight back against the fresh assault was a clear sign of disarray within its forces.

The attack near Kharkiv, in the east of the country, comes a week after Ukraine launched a much-hyped assault against a vulnerable Russian pocket on the west bank of the Dnipro river in Kherson, on the southern front.

The purpose of the assault was not immediately clear, but it may be intended as a diversion to keep the Russians from reinforcing Kherson.

On Monday Ukrainian forces mounted a surprise attack across the Siversky Donets river in the Donetsk region at a village called Ozernoye.

No reason for the operation was given. Russian media later claimed the town had been retaken.

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