Many fleeing Russian troops near Kharkiv have left Ukraine – US official

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WASHINGTON, Sept 12 (Reuters) – Russia has largely surrendered its gains near Kharkiv and many retreating Russian soldiers have left Ukraine and crossed the border back into Russia, a senior U.S. military official said on Monday.

As it retreated, the U.S. saw Russian forces abandon their equipment, a U.S. military official who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “indicative of Russia’s erratic command and control.”

The comments to Pentagon reporters followed a weekend of quick victories for Ukrainian forces. Ukraine’s civil servants said its soldiers had recaptured more than 20 towns and villages in the past day as Ukrainian forces pushed deeper into territory captured from fleeing Russian troops.

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The US military official was upbeat but cautious when describing the Ukrainian developments.

“It is clear that they are fighting hard,” the official said, citing progress in the south and east to retake territory.

Ukraine said it had repulsed Russian advances in two key areas of the Donetsk region — Pakmut, near the coal-producing city of Horlivka, and the city of Myorsk, civil servants said in an evening update.

But a senior US military official said Russia was still concentrating its firepower on Pakmut.

“We continue to see heavy use of artillery and airstrikes,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Vitaly Ganchev, the Russian-installed head of Moscow’s occupation administration in what remained Russian-controlled Kharkiv region, acknowledged that Ukrainian forces had infiltrated the territory.

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The official did not say how many Russian troops had left Ukrainian territory for Russia, but described a significant backlog.

“On the ground near Kharkiv, we estimate that Russian forces have largely relinquished their gains to the Ukrainians and retreated to the north and east. Many of these forces have moved across the border into Russia,” the official said.

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Reporting by Bill Stewart and Idris Ali; Editing by Jonathan Otis and Lisa Schumacher

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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