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Ukrainian flag raised in retaken city after Russian retreat

IZIUM, Ukraine (AP) Hand on heart, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy watched his countrys flag rise Wednesday above the recaptured city of Izium, creating a rare foray beyond your capital that highlights Moscows embarrassing retreat from the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Russian forces left the war-scarred city the other day as Kyivs soldiers pressed a stunning advance which has reclaimed large swaths of territory in Ukraines northeastern Kharkiv region.

As Zelenskyy looked on and sang the national anthem, the Ukrainian flag grew up while watching burned-out city hall. After almost half a year under Russian occupation, Izium was left largely devastated, with apartment buildings blackened by fire and pockmarked by artillery strikes.

A gaping hole and piles of rubble stood where one building had collapsed.

The view is quite shocking, nonetheless it isn’t shocking for me personally, Zelenskyy told journalists, because we begun to start to see the same pictures from Bucha, from the initial de-occupied territories exactly the same destroyed buildings, killed people.

Bucha is really a small city on Kyivs outskirts that Russian troops withdrew in March. In the aftermath, Ukrainian authorities discovered the bodies of a huge selection of civilians dumped in streets, yards and mass graves. Many bore signs of torture.

Prosecutors said they up to now have discovered six bodies with traces of torture in recently retaken Kharkiv region villages. The top of the Kharkiv prosecutors office, Oleksandr Filchakov, said bodies were within Hrakove and Zaliznyche, villages around 60 kilometers (35 miles) southeast of Kharkiv city.

We’ve an awful picture of what the occupiers did. … Such cities as Balakliia, Izium, are standing in exactly the same row as Bucha, Borodyanka, Irpin, said Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin, listing places where in fact the Ukrainians have alleged Russian forces committed atrocities.

Local authorities have made similar claims in the areas Russia previously held, nonetheless it had not been immediately possible to verify their information. They will have not yet provided proof potential atrocities on the scale described in Bucha, where in fact the number and conditions of civilian casualties prompted international demands to press war crimes charges against Russian officials.

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As he was returning from leading early Thursday, a passenger car collided with Zelenskyys vehicle in a motorcade in Kyiv, but he wasnt seriously hurt, his spokesman said on Facebook. Spokesman Sergii Nikiforov said the driver of another vehicle received medical from Zelenskyys medical team and was taken by ambulance. Medics examined the president, who suffered no serious injuries in the accident, Nikiforov wrote. He didn’t specify what injuries Zelenskyy, 44, may have suffered.

Moscows recent rout in northeastern Ukraine was its largest military defeat since Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv area months ago. On the northern outskirts of Izium, the remains of Russian tanks and vehicles lay shattered along a road.

As Zelenskyy visited, his forces pressed their counteroffensive, de-mined retaken ground and investigated possible war crimes. He said that life comes home as Ukrainian soldiers go back to previously occupied villages.

The Ukrainian governor of the eastern Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said Ukrainian soldiers were getting ready to retake the region, which borders the Kharkiv region and was has been mostly under Russian control since July. Intense shelling of Ukrainian forces continued, he said.

Haidai told The Associated Press that Ukrainian troops were flying Ukrainian flags in the cities of Svatove and Starobilsk.

However in Kreminna, another city where Ukrainians raised their flag, Russians returned Wednesday and tore down the (Ukrainian) flags and so are demonstrably showing that theyre there, Haidai said.

A Russia-allied separatist military leader confirmed the Ukrainian advance on the Luhansk region. Andrei Marochko, an area militia officer, said on Russian TV that the problem really was difficult.

Occasionally, the contact line has come very near to the borders of the Luhansk Peoples Republic, Marochko said, discussing the independent state the separatists declared eight years back.

The counteroffensive has left more weapons in Ukrainian hands.

Russian forces likely left out a large number of tanks, armored personnel carriers along with other heavy weaponry because they fled Ukraines advance in the east, a Ukrainian think tank said Wednesday. THE GUTS for Defense Strategies said one Russian unit fleeing the Izium area left out a lot more than three dozen T-80 tanks and about as much infantry fighting vehicles. Another unit left 47 tanks and 27 armored vehicles, it said.

The guts said Russian forces tried to destroy a few of the abandoned vehicles through artillery strikes because they fell back. Typically, military ruin equipment left out so their opponent cant utilize it. However, the chaos of the Russian withdrawal apparently forced them to abandon untouched ammunition and weapons.

With the recent Ukrainian gains, a fresh front line has emerged across the Oskil River, which largely traces the Kharkiv regions eastern edge, a Washington-based think tank, the Institute for the analysis of War, said Wednesday.

Russian troops are unlikely to be strong enough to avoid further Ukrainian advances across the entire Oskil River since they do not look like receiving reinforcements, and Ukrainian troops is going to be in a position to exploit this weakness to resume the counteroffensive over the Oskil should they choose, the institute said.

In the areas, Russia continued its attacks, causing more casualties in a war which has dragged on for pretty much seven months.

Two different people were killed and three wounded after Russia attacked Mykolaiv with S-300 missiles overnight, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said.

The Nikopol area, across a river from the shutdown Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, was shelled 3 x at night time, without injuries immediately reported, regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko said.

Fighting also raged in the eastern Donetsk region, where shelling killed five civilians and wounded 16. Together, Luhansk and Donetsk constitute the Donbas, an industrial area that Moscow attempt to capture following an unsuccessful try to invade Kyiv.

Russian troops are targeting critical infrastructure. Eight cruise missiles targeted at water equipment hit Zelenskyys hometown of Kryvyi Rih, a city on the Inhulets River 150 kms (93 miles) southwest of Dnipro, the deputy head of the presidents office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, reported on his Telegram channel. Zelenskyy said the strikes were an effort to flood the town and a dam on a reservoir was hit. Video posted online showed elevated water levels on the Inhulets and flooded city streets, and evacuations of residents were suggested.

U.S. President Joe Biden observed Wednesday that Ukrainian forces have made significant progress in recent days but added, I believe its likely to be a long term.

While criticism of the invasion appears to be increasing in Russia, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said following a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Unfortunately, I cannot let you know that the realization is continuing to grow over there right now that was a blunder to start out this war.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday he had spoken with Putin about exporting Russian fertilizer through Ukraines Black Sea ports to handle a famine threat. The U.N. chief said at a news conference in NY that high charges for fertilizer have reduced the planting of crops, rendering it critical to improve Russian exports of ammonia an integral fertilizer ingredient by shipping it through Black Sea ports now used to move grain from Ukraine.

Western military and economic support has allowed Ukraine to help keep fighting since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, and the Ukrainian government received more assistance Wednesday.

A global band of creditors, like the U.S., finalized a deal to suspend Ukraines debt service through the finish of 2023, helping the united states ease liquidity pressures and increase social, health insurance and economic spending.

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Arhirova reported from Kyiv. Associated Press journalist Jon Gambrell in Kyiv contributed.

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Follow AP war coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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