Ukrainian Forces Capture Key Town as Counteroffensive Gathers Pace: Kyiv

Ukraine's security service, the SBU, has said that the country's troops have entered the eastern city of Kupiansk in a counteroffensive which, if confirmed, will deal a significant blow to Russia's war effort.

"Special forces of the SBU Special Forces A are in [Kupiansk], which was and always will be Ukrainian," the security service tweeted in a statement that was reported by local media, next to an image of the troops whose faces are blurred.

"We will free our land to the last centimeter! Let's go further! Glory to Ukraine!" added the message. The Kyiv Post tweeted: "The battle for #Kupyansk has been won. Glory to Ukraine."

The development follows unverified reports that the city had been liberated on Saturday morning. The Ukrainian military has not immediately confirmed entering the town and Newsweek has contacted Ukraine's armed forces and Russia's Defense Ministry for comment.

Ukrainian troops
Ukrainian army fighters sit on top of an armed vehicle in Kharkiv on September 9, 2022. Ukraine's security service has said that troops have retaken the strategic city of Kupiansk. Getty Images

The British Defense Ministry said that capturing the city, which has served as a railway and logistics hub for Russia since it was seized in February, would deliver "a significant blow" to Russia because it lies on supply routes to the Donbas front line.

The U.S.-based thinktank the Institute for the Study of War said the city was Russia's "key logistical node" in the region and losing to it Ukraine would "severely degrade" Russian lines of communication.

Russian state television discussed the significance of the city this week, with military expert Mikhail Khodaryonok telling the program 60 Minutes that it was of "exceptionally high importance for supplying all our troops in that region."

If confirmed and held, the gains would show that Ukraine's army can take back Russian-occupied territory and could act as leverage as Kyiv asks for more military support from the West.

Among those weapons are U.S-supplied High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) whose speed and range have allowed Kyiv's forces to hit Russian ammunition depots and command centers.

Videos shared on social media on Saturday purportedly showed a number of recent HIMARS strikes against Russian targets. "As if we needed any more proof of how consequential the HIMARS has been in turning this war around," tweeted Gissur Simonarson next to video of a destroyed building. Another user tweeted a video of what they said was a strike on a Russian target in Nova Kakhovka.

Meanwhile, there are a number of reports of Russian troops deserting. On Friday, the Ukrainian Armed Forces said, amid "significant losses," Russian troops in civilian clothes tried to escape and "return to the territory of the Russian Federation."

In what appeared to be another gain, there was a Ukrainian flag-raising ceremony in the Kharkiv town of Balakliya, video of which was tweeted by The Guardian on Saturday.

It comes as the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the retreat of its forces from both Balakliya and the city of Izium. In a statement published by state media outlet RIA Novosti, it said the decision was made to "step up efforts in Donetsk" so as to "achieve the stated goals of the special military operation" and "liberate" the Donbas.