Ukraine has launched a new front in the counteroffensive, this time moving east into the Kharkiv region. Yesterday the Guardian reported the town of Balakliia had been encircled by Ukrainian troops.

An official representing the Russian-controlled Donetsk People’s Republic said on Tuesday that Ukrainian forces “encircled” Balakliia, an eastern town of 27,000 people situated between Kharkiv and Russian-occupied Izium.

“Today, the Ukrainian armed forces, after prolonged artillery preparation … began an attack on Balakliia,” Daniil Bezsonov said on Telegram.

“At this time, Balakliia is in operative encirclement and within the firing range of Ukrainian artillery. All approaches are cut off by fire,” he said, adding that a successful Ukrainian offensive would threaten Russian forces in Izium, a strategically important town that Russia has been using for its own offensive in eastern Ukraine.

Today, Balakliia is more than encircled. President Zelensky just published this video of Ukrainian soldiers standing on a Russian flag in the city with the Ukrainian flag flying behind them.

Here’s video of the Ukrainian army moving through the center of town.

People who’ve been living in Russian occupied territory for months are happy to see them.

And the push east has already moved on to another small town called Volokhiv Yar where the Ukrainian flag has also been raised.

This graphic from the Guardian shows where these towns are located and where Ukraine might be headed next. The 1 on the map is Balakliia and the 2 is Volokhiv Yar.

The next stop might be Kupyansk which is a major transport hub for supplies heading to Izyum.

As Ukraine moves east, Russian collaborators may want to think about relocating themselves safely across the border. Today the Washington Post has a story about the Ukrainian hit squads that have been targeting collaborators for assassination.

Since Russian forces invaded in late February and began seizing Ukrainian cities and towns, close to 20 Kremlin-backed officials or their local Ukrainian collaborators have been killed or injured in a wave of assassinations and attempted killings.

They have been gunned down, blown up, hanged and poisoned — an array of methods that reflects the determination of the Ukrainian hit squads and saboteurs often operating deep inside enemy-controlled territory. The unpredictability of the attacks is meant to terrify anyone who might agree to serve in the puppet governments Russia has been creating with an eye toward staging sham referendums and ultimately annexing the occupied lands.

On Tuesday, the bloody roll continued.

Artem Bardin, the military commandant in Berdyansk, a port city on the Sea of Azov that Russia seized early in the war, was critically injured when a car exploded near the city administration building, according to Russia’s Tass news agency, which described the incident as a “terrorist act.”

Bardin’s legs were blown off and he suffered extensive blood loss…

Russia has claimed Bardin survived the explosion but Ukraine is saying he died from his injuries.

Whatever the case, he won’t be going back to work and that seems to be the plan here. Killing the collaborators limits Russia’s ability to create a veneer of legality over the invasion by having these areas vote to leave Ukraine. But it’s difficult to do that when the puppet leaders can’t step outside.

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