Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy have both appeared in public this week (Photo: Getty)
Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive over recent days has led the news when it comes to Russia’s ongoing war.
Ukraine alleges its troops have reclaimed approximately 8,000 square km, a figure which is yet to be verified by the West, it’s not all been good news for the invaded nation.
There was a recent discovery of a mass grave in the liberated city of Izyum, and Vladimir Putin is still attempting to rescue his reputation and win the war by any means possible.
Here’s what you need to know.
(Photo: PA Graphics via PA Graphics/Press Association Images)
1. What’s happening in the north-east of Ukraine?
In just five days, Ukraine managed to push Russian troops out of areas it had previously seized.
According to the Institute for the Study of War, the quantity of reclaimed land is the equivalent to the gains the whole of the Russian Army made between April and September.
The think tank claimed: “Russian forces in eastern Ukraine will likely struggle to hold their defensive lines if Ukrainian forces continue to push farther east.”
Ukraine is still moving forward with its counteroffensives across the east, pressuring both Russian positions and logistics lines in eastern Kharkiv, northern Luhansk, and eastern Donetsk Oblasts.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during flag hoisting ceremony in Izium after the Ukrainian forces took control of the city from the Russian forces in Kharkiv, Ukraine on Wednesday (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
2. Why is Izium in the news?
While plenty of towns and cities were liberated, Izium has hit the headlines because Ukrainian troops discovered a horrifying mass grave near the town this week.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has since accused Russia of “leaving death everywhere” after troops claimed they had discovered more than 440 bodies buried in a forest.
Wooden crosses mark the locations of various bodies, and a few contain names and dates.
The chief police investigator for the Kharkiv region, Serhiy Bolvinov, claimed that some of these people may have died to due shelling and airstrikes, others from a lack of healthcare.
The exact circumstances of their deaths have yet to be determined. Most of the bodies are believed to be civilians.
Bolvinov compared it to the massacres seen in Bucha and Mariupol. Russians also killed more than 1,400 people in the Kyiv region (including Bucha) when trying to seize the capital.
The president also suggested it was time for the world to “hold Russia to real account for this war” – but the Kremlin refuses to accept any responsibility for the atrocities, denying any war crime accusations and civilian targeting.
Ukraine plans to examine each body forensically after exhuming them, and metal detectors are trying to find any hidden explosives within the forest.
A mass burial was found in Izyum, Kharkiv region. Necessary procedures have already begun. All bodies will be exhumed and sent for forensic examination. Expect more information tomorrow.
Russia is a murderer country. A state sponsor of terrorism. pic.twitter.com/7pKTrYvlUF
— Andriy Yermak (@AndriyYermak) September 15, 2022
3. What’s happening with the sanctions?
The US added new sanctions to 31 companies in the Russian technology sector, including space and technology companies on Thursday.
The GRU intelligence agency, and a top economic adviser to Putin, Maxim Oreshkin, were also sanctioned.
While this does not sound like a large deal as Russia is already facing a pile of sanctions from the west, these particular restrictions will prevent Russia from modernising its army – again, giving Ukraine the upper hand in battle.
Russia’s defence sector is struggling to rebuild after the success of Ukraine’s counteroffensive, too.
“The United States continues to hold the Russian government to account for its war against Ukraine,” explained US secretary of state Antony Blinken.
“Those designated today – from perpetrators of violence to an official facilitating the purposeful removal of children from Ukraine – provide examples of the behaviour that has become synonymous with the government of Russia’s unprovoked war,” he said.
At least 46 countries have imposed sanctions on Russia since it started being aggressive towards Ukraine back in February. According to Al Jazeera, this makes it the most sanctioned country in the world.
4. Is Russia getting desperate?
Vladimir Putin went to visit his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping this week, and he appeared to tell Xi that Russia “understands your questions and concerns”.
This prompted pundits to wonder if that meant China was worried about Putin’s success – even though China is actually only propping up Russia by still buying energy.
Fossil fuel exportation is a major source for Russia, but most of its buyers in Europe are weaning themselves off it – meaning a major blow to Putin’s economy.
Russia is also becoming increasingly isolated on the world stage, as seen by the absence of an invitation to Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral this week.
This is remarkable. Xi is not supporting Putin. No weapons, no ammo, no chips, no real words of solidarity. Just a willingness to buy Russian energy at very discounted prices. https://t.co/dk7fZcgL5l
— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) September 15, 2022
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.