Ukraine: Kremlin soldiers flee on bicycles and in civilian clothes

war in Ukraine
Russian soldiers flee on stolen bicycles and in stolen civilian clothes

Remains of a destroyed tank at Balakliia in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine

Remains of a destroyed tank at Balakliia in the Kharkiv region. Ukraine has almost completely recaptured the territory from the Russians.

© Juan Barreto / AFP

Ukraine drove Russian forces out of most of the Kharkiv region in just a few days. According to reports, the escape of the Kremlin troops was hasty and chaotic.

The Ukrainian counter-offensive in the east of the country apparently caused the Russian armed forces to flee in a hurry. "They just dropped their guns on the ground," say residents of Zalisnychne in Zaporizhia Oblast in the Washington Post. Half of the soldiers fled in their vehicles in the first hours of the offensive. Those who stayed behind had become more and more desperate. According to the newspaper, some villagers were heard over the radio asking their unit commanders to pick them up. However, the commanders refused.

Ukraine captures Russian tanks and equipment

"They said: 'You are on your own,'" local resident Olena Matvienko describes the events in the newspaper. The soldiers then got vehicles and civilian clothing to flee on their own. "They came to our homes to take our clothes so the drones couldn't see them in uniforms. They took our bikes. Two of them pointed guns at my ex-husband until he handed them his car keys."

similar reports the "Financial Times": The Kremlin troops in the southeast of Kharkov were already on the verge of panic, the newspaper writes. Many were in such a hurry that meals were left on the canteen tables and boxes of valuable ammunition and other weapons were left near the trenches. "They left their tanks and equipment behind. [...] They even grabbed bicycles to escape. [...] They fled like Olympic sprinters," the newspaper quoted Petro Kuzyk, a commander in Ukraine's National Guard involved in the offensive.

When they recaptured the strategically important small town of Izyum, 140 kilometers southeast of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian armed forces "captured their entire arsenal of weapons along the Izyum axis" from the Russian units, Kuzan said. "The Russians have the advantage in terms of weapons, but the speed of our troops did not allow them to exploit this advantage." Journalists from the AFP news agency confirmed that the Kremlin troops left their equipment.

Several from the US broadcaster CNN analyzed and verified videos and local reports show a chaotic retreat by Russian units, leaving large amounts of ammunition and equipment behind.

In the past few days, the Ukrainian army has been able to gain considerable territory and recapture several strategically important towns. The counter-offensive against the troops of of Russia President Vladimir Putin and his allies are moving forward, Kyiv announced in its morning situation report on Monday. The Russian General Staff conceded the most extensive withdrawal from the Kharkov region, but described this as a "regrouping" to reinforce the units in the Donetsk region.

Sources: "Washington Post", "Financial Times", CNN, Associated Press

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