A local official who was believed to have helped the Russian forces was arrested by elite special forces in a raid on her basement near the city of Kharkiv.

Video footage of the local official, Nadiya Antonova, being swarmed by the Ukrainian Alpha Force troops along with secret intelligence agents who took her away in handcuffs had surfaced on the internet a few days prior.

Antonova was a secretary in the local council of her village. She is accused of providing intel to the Russian army, such as giving out the names of soldiers, police, and other Ukrainian forces that supported the local resistance to Russian military leaders.

She is also accused of forcing townsfolk to wear white armbands that symbolize support for Russian fighters who don white and orange armbands as opposed to yellow, green, and blue colors worn by Ukrainian troops.

“Traitor! You think you’ve found a traitor? Shame on you. I was here the whole time. How do you think we lived here?” Antonova said as she was being escorted out of her basement by Ukrainian authorities.

“According to the investigation, Nadiya Antonova sided with the invaders in the village of Kutuzivka. She established cooperation with the head of the Russian military, with the call sign Knight,” Kharkiv’s governor Oleh Syniegubov said.

Antonova’s village is in the rural areas of Kharkiv, which were recently liberated from Russian control. Her arrest is part of a nationwide crackdown on collaborators and traitors who have worked with Russia during Vladimir Putin’s so-called “special military operation.”

“It is necessary to punish collaborators,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, warning that traitors face exile or imprisonment. If proven guilty of “treason under martial law,” branded traitors, and more so traitor local officials like Antonova may face a lifetime behind bars.

Alongside Antonova, another local council member was arrested on the accusation of treason in the town of Staryi Saltiv near the Russian border. Eduard Konovalov, a chairperson in his local council, was accused of collaborating with the Russian invaders and providing their troops shelter. Like Antonova, Konovalov was also reported to have pushed the locals not to resist the invasion and side with Moscow. He, too, could face life in prison for treason.

Zelensky has insisted that Ukrainians must stay united against their aggressors as the conflict brings more pain and suffering for the locals.

“The future of Ukraine directly depends on the strength of our resistance in all its forms. The future of us all, each of our cities, each of our villages,” Zelensky said in a statement.

“And I am grateful to everyone who understands this. Who does not stop resisting even when it seems that the result is very far. Because the darkest time is always before dawn,” he added.

These waves of arrests came after some settlements in the Kharkiv region, east of Ukraine, had been reclaimed by the Ukrainian forces.

“As a result of the coordinated actions of the personal composition of the units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine in Kharkiv region, the settlements of Cherkasy Tyshki, Ruski Tyshki, Rubížne, and Bayrak were released,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced in a Facebook post.

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If true, the success of the ongoing counter-offensive could indicate a shift in the war momentum shortly after Moscow had repositioned their forces in the east. This could also force the Russian offensive further south as they lose some foothold in the east.

A battle map showing Ukrainian forces launching counter-offensives in Kharkiv, being successful in taking numerous previously Russian-occupied areas (Ukraine War Map). Source: https://twitter.com/War_Mapper/status/1523815508029714434
A battle map showing Ukrainian forces launching counter-offensives in Kharkiv, being successful in taking numerous previously Russian-occupied areas (Ukraine War Map/Twitter)

Kharkiv, which is approximately just 20 miles from the Russia border, has been one of the first major cities to experience the tragedies of the invasion and has been the target of heavy shelling since late February. Today, it is returning fire as it was reported that M777A2 155mm howitzers had been already operational and were reported to have destroyed a Russian 2S3 Akatsiya 152mm SPG near Izyum, Kharkiv.

Ukrainian forces have also reportedly reclaimed the settlement of Ternova, which is just 2 miles from the Russian border. Heavy fighting, however, continues in the areas near Izyum, south of Kharkiv, as well as around Kherson, a city that has been in Russian control since the beginning of the invasion.

Although modest for now, these gains can also translate into larger wins as the Russian advance loses momentum. If Kharkiv is completely liberated, elite Ukrainian fighters will be freed up to bolster the advance down south.

The advances also put the city of Vovchans’k within artillery range. The city is a major link in the Russian supply line as it links the Russian mainland and its frontline in the Donbas. This brings up the opportunity for Ukraine to threaten, or even cut off completely, the supply line passing through that area.