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Ukraine war – live: Zelensky praises troops on visit to newly liberated city


Volodymyr Zelensky has thanked his troops on a visit to a newly captured city in the northeast province of Kharkiv.

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian president travelled to Izium to attend a flag-raising ceremony.

The now devastated city was used by the Russians as a key supply hub, before it was liberated late last week by the Ukrainian army as part of the significant advance it has made in northeast Ukraine.

In total, Kyiv is believed to have retaken about 8,000 square kilometres in the region in under a week.

The president said the presence of Ukraine’s forces had breathed life back into places like Izium.

“I see how people meet them, in what a sensitive moment. It means that with our army, the life comes back,” he said.

In other developments, the Kremlin is “almost certainly” sourcing weapons from Iran and North Korea as it struggles with supply shortages, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Defence experts believe the Russian army has been forced to buy from the pariah states in part because of the impact of Western sanctions.

Key points

  • Zelensky visits newly recaptured town of Izium

  • Russia ‘almost certainly’ importing weapons from Iran and North Korea, says MoD

  • Accounts of Russian torture emerge from area liberated by Ukraine

  • ‘About 150,000 people liberated in Balakliia’

  • In recaptured Ukraine town, locals sob with relief, relate harrowing accounts

  • ‘Ukraine has made progress but still a long haul,’ says Biden

Zelensky visits recently liberated Ukrainian city to thank troops

13:20 , Rory Sullivan

As mentioned earlier, the Ukrainian president travelled to Kharkiv province today to praise his troops for their successful counteroffensive.

Zelensky visits recently liberated Ukrainian city to thank troops

Kremlin silent on potential US-Russia prisoner swap

13:00 , Rory Sullivan

The Kremlin has refused to comment on reports that the US is discussing a potential prisoner swap with the Kremlin.

Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is thought to have travelled to Moscow for this purpose.

“There were no meetings at the Kremlin,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. “I have nothing to tell you on this subject.”

India and France call for ‘dialogue and diplomacy’ over Ukraine

12:40 , Rory Sullivan

India and France have repeated calls for Ukraine and Russia to return to the negotiating table.

“There should be a return to dialogue and diplomacy,” India’s foreign minister, S. Jaishankar, said after meeting his French counterpart.

Zelensky thanks troops in Kharkiv region

12:20 , Rory Sullivan

Volodymyr Zelensky visited Izium on 14 September, 2022. (UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)

Volodymyr Zelensky visited Izium on 14 September, 2022. (UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)

The Ukrainian flag has been raised over the de-occupied city. (UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)

The Ukrainian flag has been raised over the de-occupied city. (UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)

Ukrainian troops take part in the flag raising ceremony. (UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)

Ukrainian troops take part in the flag raising ceremony. (UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER)

Zelensky visits newly recaptured town of Izium

12:00 , Rory Sullivan

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has visited the newly recaptured town of Izium in northeast Ukraine.

His troops took over the town a few days ago after pushing back the Russian army.

“The president of Ukraine thanked the soldiers for liberating Ukrainian lands, and solemnly raised the Ukrainian flag over the city council,” the 25th Separate Airborne Sicheslav Brigade said on Facebook.

Retreating Russian troops in Kharkiv accused of torture by Ukrainians

11:40 , Rory Sullivan

Russian troops have been accused of torturing Ukrainians in Kharkiv provinces, swathes of which have recently been retaken by Kyiv.

David Harding reports:

Retreating Russian troops in Kharkiv accused of torture by Ukrainians

Ukraine war in photos

11:20 , Rory Sullivan

A lightning Ukrainian counterattack has seen Russian troops flee from their positions in Kharkiv province.

Here are some images from territory Ukraine has recaptured:

A destroyed vehicle near the town of Izium, which was recently liberated by the Ukrainian army. (via REUTERS)

A destroyed vehicle near the town of Izium, which was recently liberated by the Ukrainian army. (via REUTERS)

Russian artillery shells captured by Ukraine in Kharkiv province. (via REUTERS)

Russian artillery shells captured by Ukraine in Kharkiv province. (via REUTERS)

Ukrainian soldiers in Izium, Kharkiv, on 13 September, 2022. (AP)

Ukrainian soldiers in Izium, Kharkiv, on 13 September, 2022. (AP)

Ukrainian advance brings frontline closer to Luhansk ‘separatist’ border

11:00 , Rory Sullivan

Ukrainian soldiers are advancing close to the borders of the land claimed by separatist fighters in Luhansk province, a Russian-back commander has said.

Since 2014, pro-Russian troops have taken control of parts of eastern Ukraine, with the intention of wresting the entire Donbas region from Kyiv’s control.

However, a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive over the last week is pushing the new front line closed to the self-proclaimed borders, Andrey Marochko said.

Putin rejected Ukraine peace deal recommended by aide early in war, say sources

10:40 , Rory Sullivan

Vladimir Putin rejected a deal one of his envoys brokered with Ukraine as the war began, sources have told Reuters.

It is thought that the Ukrainian-born envoy, Dmitry Kozak, obtained a provisional deal that satisfied the Kremlin’s desire that Ukraine never join Nato.

However, the Russian leader reportedly changed his mind, deciding he wanted to annexe swathes of Ukraine.

“After 24 February, Kozak was given carte blanche: they gave him the green light; he got the deal. He brought it back and they told him to clear off. Everything was cancelled. Putin simply changed the plan as he went along,” one Kremlin source said.

Responding to the story, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, said: “Today, we clearly understand that the Russian side has never been interested in a peaceful settlement.”

The Kremlin has claimed that the Reuters exclusive is based on “absolutely incorrect information”.

Russia spent $300m to covertly influence world politics, says US

10:20 , Rory Sullivan

#icymi

The Biden administration has released a cable which suggests that Russia has spent $300 million over the last eight years on attempts to influence politicians and other officials in dozens of countries.

Read more:

US: Russia spent $300M to covertly influence world politics

Taiwan learning from Ukraine’s communications strategy

10:00 , Rory Sullivan

Taiwan is learning from Ukraine’s communications strategy, the country’s digital minister has said.

After US house speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taipei last month, China launched large-scale war games off the island, raising fears that it could invade Taiwan.

“We look at the experience of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. We found that the whole world can know what is happening there in real time,” the Taiwanese digital affairs minister Audrey Tang said.

“It’s not only for our own people, but also for the people who care about us all over the world, so that we can enlist the assistance of international friends.”

EU ‘not complete’ without eastern neighbours, says von der Leyen

09:42 , Rory Sullivan

The EU is not complete without some of its eastern neighbours, Ursula von der Leyen has said.

Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and countries in the Western Balkans are part of the European family, she added.

“You are part of our family, you are the future of our union,” Ms von der Leyen said. “Our Union is not complete without you.”

Kremlin ‘acknowledges defeat’ in Kharkiv, says ISW

09:20 , Rory Sullivan

The Kremlin has acknowledged its defeat in Kharkiv province, the first time it has been open about one of its setbacks in Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said.

In less than a week, Kyiv’s forces have retaken thousands of square kilometers of land in the northeast region.

Moscow tried to recast previous failures – including its withdrawal from areas around Kyiv this spring – as strategic decisions.

However, the approach to the Kharkiv defeat has been slightly different.

“The Kremlin’s acknowledgment of the defeat is part of an effort to mitigate and deflect criticism for such a devastating failure away from Russian President Vladimir Putin and onto the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the uniformed military command,” the ISW said.

EU’s solidarity with Ukraine ‘unshakeable’, says von der Leyen

09:00 , Rory Sullivan

Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine remains “unshakeable”, Ursula von der Leyen has said.

Speaking in the bloc’s parliament in Strasbourg, the European Commission president said: “I stand here with the conviction that with courage and solidarity, Putin will fail and Europe will prevail.”

“Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine will remain unshakeable,” she added.

Ms von der Leyen also announced a surprise visit to Kyiv later on Wednesday to mark the bloc’s ongoing support for Ukraine.

Russia forced to import North Korean military kit, says MoD

08:40 , Rory Sullivan

Vladimir Putin’s forces are being forced to source equipment from North Korea and Iran as the impacts of sanctions and military losses in Ukraine bite, defence experts believe.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian officials said their forces had shot down on Iranian-made drone in Kharkiv province.

“Russia is almost certainly increasingly sourcing weaponry from other heavily sanctioned states like Iran and North Korea as its own stocks dwindle,” the British Ministry of Defence said.

Russia forced to import North Korean military kit, Ministry of Defence says

Kremlin hails importance of Vladimir Putin-Xi Jinping meeting in Samarkand

08:25 , Namita Singh

The Kremlin has hailed the significance of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s planned meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping this week amid tensions with the West.

Mr Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said the two leaders are scheduled to meet on Thursday in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on the sidelines of a summit of a security pact dominated by Moscow and Beijing.

“The meeting has a special significance in view of the current international situation,” Mr Ushakov told reporters, saying Mr Putin and Mr Xi will discuss the international situation, along with regional issues and bilateral cooperation.

China has pointedly refused to criticise Russia’s action in Ukraine and denounced Western sanctions against Moscow.

Russia, in turn, has strongly backed China amid tensions with the US that followed a recent visit to Taiwan by US House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“China has taken a well-balanced approach to the Ukrainian crisis, clearly expressing its understanding of the reasons that prompted Russia to launch the special military operation,” Mr Ushakov said.

“The issue will be thoroughly discussed during the meeting.”

More in this report:

Kremlin hails importance of Putin-Xi meeting in Samarkand

Russian forces ‘ordered to retreat’ from Kharkiv as some leave weapons behind in ‘apparent panic’

08:10 , Namita Singh

Russian forces have been ordered to retreat from advancing Ukrainian troops in Kharkiv to focus instead on defending their position in the eastern Donbas region, according to western intelligence sources.

Vladimir Putin’s generals are expected to cede an area nearly half the size of Wales before setting up a new defensive line to the east of the Oskil river, according to intelligence.

Ukrainian forces have reclaimed more than two thousands square miles of territory as they continue their counter-offensive, the country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said, regaining key locations in the Kharkiv region.

He has urged the West to speed up arms supplies to maintain the momentum of its offensives.

Some Russian units fled their positions in “apparent panic” leaving behind a “significant quantity” of weapons, vehicles and ammunition as they fled, Western officials said.

Jon Stone and David Harding report:

Russian forces ‘ordered to retreat’ as some units flee in ‘apparent panic’

Ukrainian troops keep up the pressure on retreating Russian forces

07:55 , Namita Singh

Ukrainian troops piled pressure on retreating Russian forces Tuesday, pressing deeper into occupied territory and sending more Kremlin troops fleeing ahead of the counteroffensive that has inflicted a stunning blow on Moscow’s military prestige.

As the advance continued, Ukraine’s border guard services said the army took control of Vovchansk — a town just 3km (2 miles) from Russia seized on the first day of the war. Russia has acknowledged that it recently withdrew troops from areas in the northeastern region of Kharkiv.

Russian troops were also pulling out from Melitopol, the second largest city in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia region, the city’s pre-occupation mayor said. His claim could not immediately be verified.

This photograph taken on 11 September 2022, shows an abandoned Russian tank in a village on the outskirts of Izyum, Kharkiv Region, eastern Ukraine, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine (AFP via Getty Images)

This photograph taken on 11 September 2022, shows an abandoned Russian tank in a village on the outskirts of Izyum, Kharkiv Region, eastern Ukraine, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine (AFP via Getty Images)

Melitopol has been occupied since early March. Capturing it would give Kyiv an opportunity to disrupt Russian supply lines between the south and the eastern Donbas region, the two major areas where Moscow-backed forces hold territory.

Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov wrote on Telegram that the Russian troops were heading toward Moscow-annexed Crimea. He said columns of military equipment were reported at a checkpoint in Chonhar, a village marking the boundary between the Crimean peninsula and the Ukrainian mainland.

In the newly freed village of Chkalovske in the Kharkiv region, Svitlana Honchar said the Russians’ departure was sudden and swift.

“They left like the wind. They were fleeing by any means they could.”

China keeps West guessing about economic pressure on Russia

07:40 , Namita Singh

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is keeping the West guessing about whether Beijing will cooperate with tougher sanctions on Russia as he meets President Vladimir Putin a year after declaring they had a “no limits” friendship ahead of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

China has avoided violating sanctions but its purchases of Russian oil and gas rose almost 60% in August over a year ago to $11.2 billion. That helps to top up Moscow’s cash flow after the United States, Europe and Japan cut purchases and expelled Russia from the global banking system.

Xi and Putin are due to meet this week in Uzbekistan at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an eight-nation Central Asian security group.

Washington and allies in the Group of Seven major economies want to squeeze Moscow by enforcing an upper limit on how much buyers are allowed to pay for its oil. That would require cooperation from China, India and other energy-hungry Asian economies that have avoided taking sides and still buy from Russia.

Report:

China keeps West guessing about economic pressure on Russia

Amid Russia’s war, pope says faith cannot justify such evil

07:24 , Namita Singh

Pope Francis told the Russian Orthodox hierarchy and other faith leaders Tuesday that religion must never be used to justify the “evil” of war and that God must never “be held hostage to the human thirst for power.”

Against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Francis opened an interfaith conference in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan by challenging delegations to unite in condemning war.

He cited a Kazakh poet in warning that “he who permits evil and does not oppose it cannot be regarded as a true believer. At best he is a half-hearted believer.”

In the audience of the 80 imams, patriarchs, rabbis and muftis was Metropolitan Anthony, in charge of foreign relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, which has firmly backed Russia’s invasion. His boss, Patriarch Kirill, was supposed to have participated in the congress but canceled last month.

Read more in this report:

Amid Russia’s war, pope says faith cannot justify such evil

‘They were in a sad state’: Ukraine forces find Russians in retreat

07:00 , Namita Singh

Some of the Russian forces driven out of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region have fled back across the border, although the elite tank regiment tasked to carry out the first strike against Nato and defend Moscow has stopped its retreat at Donetsk.

The Kremlin’s main stronghold in the northwest has fallen, the route to Donbas reclaimed by Ukraine.

The Russian troops left in the eastern and southern front in Ukraine are battered, “degraded” in military parlance, and morale is low.

The sweeping gains made by Ukrainian forces have led to more than 6,000 square kilometres (2,300 square miles) of territory being recovered in 12 days – four times the size of Greater London or bigger than Denmark, according to various comparisons.

The time and tide of the conflict is changing and the beginning of the end may now be here, reports Kim Sengupta from Kyiv.

Ukraine forces capture ‘sad’ retreating Russian troops

In liberated Ukraine town, locals sob with relief, relate harrowing accounts

06:49 , Namita Singh

The guns had gone quiet after three days of fighting in the battle-scarred northeast Ukrainian town of Balakliia, but Mariya Tymofiyeva said it was only when she saw Ukrainian soldiers that it hit her that over six months of Russian occupation had ended.

“I was walking away… when I saw an armoured personnel carrier coming onto the square with a Ukrainian flag: my heart just tightened up and I began to sob,” the 43-year-old resident said, her voice trembling with emotion.

On Tuesday, she was among a crowd of residents receiving food parcels from a van at the same square where the Ukrainian flag was dramatically hoisted last week in one of the first images of Ukraine’s extraordinary northeastern counteroffensive.

The town – which had a population of 27,000 before the war – is one of a chain of key urban outposts that Ukraine has recaptured over the last week after a sudden collapse of one of Russia’s principal front lines.

This photograph taken on 11 September 2022, shows a Ukranian soldier standing atop an abandoned Russian tank near a village on the outskirts of Izyum, Kharkiv Region, eastern Ukraine, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine (AFP via Getty Images)

This photograph taken on 11 September 2022, shows a Ukranian soldier standing atop an abandoned Russian tank near a village on the outskirts of Izyum, Kharkiv Region, eastern Ukraine, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine (AFP via Getty Images)

On Tuesday, the streets around Balakliia’s main square were eerily quiet. The Ukrainian flag flew above a statue of national poet Taras Shevchenko in front of the regional government building.

A short walk away, regional police officers led reporters to the burial place of two people. The bodies had been exhumed and were laid out on the grass in open body bags.

The two men, they said, were civilians who had been shot dead at a checkpoint in the town on 6 September when the town was still under Russian control. Locals had buried them there because they had nowhere else to do so.

At the site of the exhumed grave, Valentyna, the distressed mother of one of the dead men, 49-year-old Petro, cursed the war and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“No one can return my son to me,” she said.

‘About 150,000 people liberated in Balakliia’

06:45 , Namita Singh

Speaking in the central square of Balakliia, a crucial military supply hub taken by Ukrainian forces late last week, Ukraine‘s deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar said 150,000 people had been liberated from Russian rule in the area.

Ukrainian flags had been raised and a large crowd gathered to receive bundles of humanitarian aid. A shopping centre had been destroyed but many buildings remained intact, with shops closed and boarded up.

“The aim is to liberate the Kharkiv region and beyond – all the territories occupied by the Russian Federation,” said the minister on the road to Balakliia, which lies 74 km (46 miles) southeast of Kharkiv.

The road to Balakliia through liberated areas was littered with charred vehicles and destroyed military hardware.

Nina Gonchar, sits in front of a destroyed house in Bohorodychne village in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, on 13 September 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine (AFP via Getty Images)

Nina Gonchar, sits in front of a destroyed house in Bohorodychne village in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, on 13 September 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine (AFP via Getty Images)

Groups of Ukrainian soldiers smoked, grinned and chatted beside the road. One soldier was stretched out on the top of a tank like it was his living room sofa.

In the nearby village of Verbivka, emotional but cheery residents, many of them of retirement age, recounted the fearful existences they led under almost seven months of Russian occupation.

“It was scary: we tried to walk around less, so they’d see us less,” said Tetiana Sinovaz.

Nadia Khvostok, 76, described the traumatic occupation and the arrival of Ukrainian troops, saying residents greeted them “with tears in our eyes”.

There were abandoned Russian vehicles, including a military truck with a smashed windscreen.

‘Ukraine has made progress but still a long haul,’ says Biden

06:15 , Namita Singh

US President Joe Biden feels that though Ukraine has made “significant progress” in the war, it is hard to tell if it has reached a turning point.“It’s clear the Ukrainians have made significant progress. But I think it’s going to be a long haul.”

The White House, which has provided billions of dollars of weapons and support, said earlier the US is likely to announce a new military aid package for Ukraine in “coming days”.

Russian forces have left defensive positions, particularly in and around Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, a US spokesperson said.

US President Joe Biden salutes as he boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, on 13 September 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden salutes as he boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, on 13 September 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)

Since Moscow abandoned its main bastion in the northeast on Saturday, marking its worst defeat since the early days of the war, Ukrainian troops have recaptured dozens of towns in a stunning shift in battleground momentum.

Russian forces still control about a fifth of Ukraine in the south and east, but Kyiv is now on the offensive in both areas.

Ukraine claims liberating area roughly the size of Greek island of Crete

06:02 , Namita Singh

Ukraine has set its sights on freeing all territory occupied by invading Russian forces after driving them back in a speedy counter-offensive in the northeast.

Around 8,000 sqkm have been liberated by Ukrainian forces so far this month, all in the northeastern region of Kharkiv, said president Volodymyr Zelensky in a Tuesday evening address.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky talks to a journalist on 9 September 2022 (Getty Images)

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky talks to a journalist on 9 September 2022 (Getty Images)

“Stabilisation measures” had been completed in about half of that territory, he said, “and across a liberated area of about the same size, stabilisation measures are still ongoing.”

Reuters was not able to immediately verify the full scope of battlefield successes claimed by Ukraine. The total area cited by Zelenskiy is roughly the size of the Greek island of Crete.

Accounts of Russian torture emerge from area liberated by Ukraine

06:00 , Namita Singh

The residents in the newly-liberated areas of Ukraine recounted the incidences of torture by Russian forces during the detention.

Artem, a resident in the city of Balkliya in the Kharki region held by Russian forces for more than 40 days, shared a detailed account of torture and electrocution.

He told BBC that he could hear screams of pain and torure from other cells as well, adding that the occupiers turned of the building noisy ventilation system, so the cried could be heard.

Man stands in front of a destroyed house in Bohorodychne village in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, on 13 September 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukrain (AFP via Getty Images)

Man stands in front of a destroyed house in Bohorodychne village in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, on 13 September 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukrain (AFP via Getty Images)

“They made me hold two wires,” he said. “There was an electric generator. The faster it went, the higher the voltage. They said, ‘if you let it go, you are finished’. Then they started asking questions. They said I was lying, and they started spinning it even more and the voltage increased.”

Artem shared, he was detained because they found a picture of his brother in uniform.

Another man said he was held because they found him with Ukrainian flag.

04:41 , Namita Singh

Welcome to The Independent’s live Ukraine war coverage for 14 September.



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