Anti-war activist in Russian Tatarstan flees the country

Ukraine says it first encountered an Iranian-made suicide drone used by Russia on the battlefield, where its military pushed Russian forces out of hundreds of towns and villages in the northeast of the country.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in its overnight address of September 13, Ukraine had full control of more than 4,000 square kilometers of territory recaptured from Russian forces and stabilized a further 4,000 square kilometers.

Despite considerable gains by Ukrainian forces, US President Joe Biden late on September 13 predicted “a long journey” ahead.

Live briefing: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

RFE/RL Live briefing gives you all the latest developments on the ongoing invasion of Russia, how Kyiv is fighting back, Western military aid, the global response and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL’s coverage of the war, click here.

On September 14, the Ukrainian military’s Strategic Communications Directorate released what it said was footage of the wreckage of what appeared to be an Iranian-piloted delta-shaped drone known as the Shahed-136, or “witness” in Persian.

Ukrainian troops encountered the drone near Kupyansk amid the Kyiv offensive that broke through Russian lines around Kharkiv on the eastern front, the Ukrainian military said.

The Shahed drone appears to have been shot down by Ukrainian forces and did not explode on impact as expected, although little further information was immediately released by Kyiv.

An inscription on the drone identified it as an “M214 Gran-2”, which did not immediately correspond to known Russian military equipment.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not respond to a request for comment. Russia has not recognized the Ukrainian claim.

The British Ministry of Defence, in an intelligence update on September 14, also noted the Ukrainian downing allegation, saying, “Russia most likely deployed Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles … to Ukraine for the first time.”

“The loss of a Shahed-136 near the front lines suggests that there is a realistic possibility that Russia is trying to use the system to conduct tactical strikes rather than against more strategic targets further into Ukrainian territory.” , British intelligence said.

In July, US intelligence publicly warned that Iran planned to send hundreds of bomb-carrying drones to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine.

Iran initially denied the accusation, but the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has in recent days boasted of arming the world’s biggest powers.

The Ukrainian army pushed Russian forces out of hundreds of towns and villages in the northeast of the country, and Zelenskiy said stabilization of liberated communities is underway.

“To date, stabilization measures have been completed in areas with a total area of ​​more than 4,000 square kilometers, and stabilization is continuing in approximately the same liberated territory,” Zelenskiy said. said. “Remains of occupation forces, sabotage groups are discovered, collaborators are detained, security is restored.”

Just a day before, Zelenskiy said Ukraine had recaptured 6,000 square kilometers in its recent counter-offensive in the northeast, where dozens of areas including the towns of Izyum, Kupyansk and Balaklia had been occasions.

Since September 6, Ukrainian forces in the Kharkiv region have taken over more than 300 settlements and areas housing around 150,000 people, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said, speaking in the central Balaklia square .

A senior US military official said Russia had largely ceded territory near Kharkiv and had brought many of its troops back across the border.

With the recapture of almost the entire Kharkiv region, the Ukrainian advance could soon expand into neighboring Lugansk and Donetsk, where Russia has concentrated its forces in a bid to expand territory held by separatists backed by the Kremlin since 2014.

In Washington, Biden, asked whether Ukraine had reached a turning point in the six-month war, said it was hard to say.

“It is clear that Ukrainians have made significant progress. But I think it will be a long time,” Biden said Sept. 13.

The White House, which has provided billions of dollars in arms and support to Ukraine, said the United States would likely announce a new military aid package in the “coming days”.

Although recent territorial shifts marked one of Russia’s biggest setbacks since its troops were pushed back from Kyiv at the start of the war, Moscow has signaled that it is no closer to accepting a peace negotiated, and the Kremlin insisted that it would achieve its military objectives.

Russia said it was carrying out strikes on the Ukrainian front line and accused Ukrainian soldiers of abusing civilians in the recaptured territories.

“Air, rocket and artillery forces are carrying out massive strikes against Ukrainian Armed Forces units in all operational directions,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in its daily briefing on the conflict.

“High-precision” strikes were also launched at Ukrainian positions around Sloviansk and Kostyantynivka in the eastern Donetsk region, he added.

In a September 13 phone call, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict based on a ceasefire and the full withdrawal of Russian troops, a spokesperson said. word of the chancellery.

With reporting from Reuters, AP and AFP

Rose D. Jones