In a prelude to their counter-offensive against Russian-held Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces destroyed a Russian surface-to-air (SAM) missile site in a huge explosion this week. Footage of the strike has gone viral, with it being viewed hundreds of thousands of times around the world.
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On Wednesday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense tweeted a video of the strike, saying, “russian S-300s are blowing up near Balaklia, Kharkiv region. But there is no need to panic… as they say.”
The video footage is an aerial camera view — likely from a surveillance drone — looking down on a forested area where the purported Russian missiles were stored.
It’s not clear exactly how many Russian S-300 SAM missiles were destroyed, but the video showed an initial small explosion, followed by a much larger secondary explosion that sent a shockwave through the surrounding forest.
Ukraine Weapons Tracker, a Twitter account that has documented the weapons used throughout the fighting between Russia and Ukraine tweeted the same video, saying, “During the preparation for the offensive towards Balakliya, #Kharkiv Oblast, the AFU claimed to have found the semi-concealed storage site for 20+ missiles for the S-300 SAM system (Likely 5V55 series), which was then struck with artillery.”
The Ukrainian offensive in its northeast Kharkiv region is ongoing. Russia has held Balaklia and much of the surrounding Ukrainian territory for months, but Ukrainian forces launched a surprise offensive as large numbers of Russian troops were repositioning to Kherson in the south.
“This week we have good news from the Kharkiv region,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an address to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. “Likely, you all have already seen reports about the activity of Ukrainian defenders. And I think every citizen feels proud of our warriors. It is a well-deserved pride, a right feeling.”
On Thursday, Ukrainian Brig. Gen. Oleksiy Gromov said Ukrainian forces had recaptured over 20 settlements around Kharkiv and moved about 30 miles through Russian lines, the Associated Press reported.
Vitaly Ganchev, the head of the pro-Russian Kharkiv Region military-civilian administration told the Russian state-run TASS news agency that Russian forces had repelled an attack on Balaklia and that the city is still in Russian hands. Ganchev said no order has been called for an evacuation of the city, but its residents may leave if they choose and noted the artillery strikes in the area are intensifying.
“We haven’t declared a centralized evacuation of the population at this time, but we said that if some people want to take children to safer locations, there’s basically no obstacles to that,” Ganchev said. “People may leave the city now that the shelling has become more frequent.”