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Moscow abandoned its main bastion in northeastern Ukraine on Saturday in a sudden collapse of a key front after Ukrainian forces made a rapid advance. The last reactor at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant has been shut down and will be transferred to a “cold state”, Ukraine’s atomic power operator said Sunday, adding that this was the “safest state” for the reactor. Read FRANCE 24’s live coverage of the day’s events. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

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1:17pm: ‘Thousands’ fleeing Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, Russian official says

A Russian official in a southern region bordering Ukraine said on Sunday that thousands of people had crossed the border as the Ukrainian army claimed to have pushed back Moscow’s forces in the east. 

“Over the past day, thousands of people have crossed the border. Most of them went to relatives in their own vehicles. Today, there are 1,342 people being housed in 27 temporary accommodation centres in the region,” Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of the Belgorod region, said in a video statement on social media.

11:36am: Ukraine says it has recaptured over 3,000 square kilometres this month

Ukraine said Sunday its forces had recaptured more than 3,000 square kilometres (1,158 square miles) this month from Russian troops in a counter-offensive centred on the country’s northeast.

“Since the beginning of September, more than 3,000 square kilometres have been returned to Ukrainian control. Around Kharkiv, we have begun to advance not only in the south and east, but also to the north. We are 50 kilometres (31 miles) from the border,” Ukrainian general Valeriy Zaluzhny said in a statement on social media.

9:37am: Kyiv says recapture of Izium district ‘ongoing’ in east Ukraine

Ukraine said Sunday its forces were working to wrest control of towns and villages around the strategic hub of Izium from Russian troops as part of a sweeping counter-offensive in the country’s east.

“Our forces entered Kupiansk. The liberation of settlements in the Kupiansk and Izium districts of the Kharkiv region is ongoing,” the Ukrainian military said in a general battlefield update Sunday, 200 days into Russia’s invasion.

9:25am: Russia announces troop pullback from Ukraine’s Kharkiv area

Russia’s defense ministry announced Saturday that it was pulling back troops from two areas in Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region, where a Ukrainian counter-offensive has made significant advances in the past week. 

Ukraine’s quick action to reclaim Russia-occupied areas in the northeastern Kharkiv region forced Moscow to withdraw its troops to prevent them from being surrounded and leave behind significant numbers of weapons and munitions in a hasty retreat as the war marked 200 days on Sunday. 

The Russians’ pullback marked the biggest battlefield success for Ukrainian forces since they thwarted a Russian attempt to seize the capital, Kyiv, at the start of the nearly seven-month war.

“The Russian army in these days is demonstrating the best that it can do – showing its back,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video released by his office Saturday night.

“And, of course, it’s a good decision for them to run,” he added.

9:24am: Ukraine says final reactor at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant switched off

Ukraine said Sunday the sixth and final reactor at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in the south of the country was no longer generating electricity.

“Today, September 11, 2022, at 3:41am (0141 GMT), unit No. 6 of the ZNPP was disconnected from the power grid. Preparations are under way for its cooling and transfer to a cold state,” state nuclear agency Energoatom said in statement.

Ukraine and its allies have been increasingly concerned about the safe operation of the Zaporizhzhia plant — the largest nuclear plant in Europe – and recent fighting there has raised fears of a serious incident.

The UN’s atomic watchdog warned earlier this week that a blackout in the nearby town of Energodar had “compromised the safe operation” of the nuclear facility.

Energoatom said Sunday that a cold shutdown was the “safest state” for the reactor. 

Earlier: Ukraine has retaken more than ‘2,000 kilometres’ of territory since the beginning of September

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy commended the military in a video address late Saturday, saying it has reclaimed about 2,000 square kilometers (over 770 square miles) of territory so far this month. 

“For the moment, since the beginning of September, around 2,000 kilometres has been liberated,” said Zelensky in his evening address.

Both sides have suffered heavy losses in Europe’s largest conflict since World War II. Ukraine’s military chief said last month that nearly 9,000 of the country’s soldiers have been killed in action. And while Moscow hasn’t reported its own losses since March, Western estimates put the toll as high as 25,000 dead, with the wounded, captured and deserters bringing the overall Russian losses to more than 80,000.

Ukraine has sought to mobilise the population to reach an active military of 1 million people while Russia, in contrast, has continued to rely on a limited contingent of volunteers for fear that a mass mobilisation could fuel discontent and upset internal stability. 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

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