Ukraine appears to have won the battle for Kharkiv, a United States report said, as Russian forces withdrew from the eastern city over an apparent lack of troop reinforcements.
It came as Ukrainian forces launched a counter-offensive to retake the nearby Russian-controlled strategic town of Izyum to the east, threatening Moscow’s attempts to control the Donbass region by encircling it.
If confirmed, the failure to capture Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, would mark Russia’s second major defeat in that war, after losing the Battle of Kyiv. It would be a stunning turnaround for Ukraine’s so-called “fortress city.”
Kharkiv was almost surrounded and seemed certain to fall in the first week of the war as Russian troops poured across the border, which is only a few dozen miles to the north.
Russian troops were about to encircle Kharkiv in March, gaining ground around the city and bombarding it with artillery fire from the suburbs.
Shelling forced hundreds of thousands of residents to flee or seek shelter on the subway or in underground shelters, while airstrikes reduced part of the center, including City Hall, to rubble.
But apart from briefly penetrating a small part of the city, the Russian troops could not advance, despite fierce resistance. That left them with no choice but to pull out, according to researchers at the Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think tank.
“The Russian military has probably decided to completely withdraw from its positions around Kharkiv in the face of Ukrainian counter-offensives and the limited availability of reinforcements,” it said. “Ukraine seems to have won the battle of Kharkiv.”
The mayor said Ukrainian troops successfully repelled Russia’s attempts to take the city.
“She [the Russians] were very close to the city,” Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov said yesterday. “Thanks to the efforts of the Kharkiv territorial defense and the Ukrainian army, the Russians retreated far from the city, towards the Russian border.”
“Kharkiv is quiet now and people are slowly returning to the city.”
The apparent pullback has led some experts to believe this could be the start of a “tipping point”.
The Russian armed forces “went from the offensive to the defensive [conversely, the Ukrainians have moved from the defensive to the offensive]said Dr. Mike Martin, a former British Army officer and Visiting Fellow in War Studies at King’s College London.
“We are reaching a small turning point in the Ukraine war.”
Nevertheless, it is still premature to claim an overall victory in Kharkiv. Shelling could still be heard from central Kharkiv and neighboring villages yesterday, including gunshots fired by retreating Russian troops.
Some shells fell near Tsyrkuny, a village northeast of the city that was recaptured by Ukrainian forces a week ago.
Rounds also landed near the village of Sorokivka, east of Kharkiv and south of the Russians’ current front line, locals and soldiers stationed there said.
Late in the afternoon, smoke could be seen from the Russian-controlled area in the same area after a volley of Ukrainian fire.
It is believed that Russian forces are now focused on capturing all of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to the east and guarding supply routes to those regions.
Hoping to build on its achievements, Ukraine said yesterday it had launched a counteroffensive near the Russian-held city of Izyum.
©Telegraph Media Group Ltd (2022)
Telegraph Media Group Limited 
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/tipping-point-the-battle-of-kharkiv-won-by-ukraine-41650909.html Turning Point – The Battle of Kharkiv won by Ukraine