Ukraine claimed Monday it had recaptured several more villages in the northeastern part of the country, pushing some Russian forces back to the border between the two nations.
After months of only incremental territorial gains and losses by Kyiv’s and Moscow’s forces, Ukrainian leaders exulted in the sudden advance since the beginning of September in the Kharkiv region.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address to the nation Monday that Ukrainian forces had retaken more than 6,000 square kilometers of territory since the offensive began this month.
“The movement of our troops continues,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there has been “significant progress by the Ukrainians, particularly in the Northeast,” citing both support from the United States and other allies and “the extraordinary courage and resilience of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Ukrainian people.”
“This is early days still,” Blinken said. “So, I think it would be wrong to predict exactly where this will go, when it will get there and how it will get there.”
The Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged over the weekend it was pulling back forces, saying they were regrouping them in the eastern Donetsk region.
Oleh Syniehubov, the Ukrainian governor of the northeastern Kharkiv region, said, “In some areas of the front, our defenders reached the state border with the Russian Federation,” with Russian troops chaotically retreating.
“The Russians were here in the morning. Then at noon, they suddenly started shouting wildly and began to run away, charging off in tanks and armored vehicles,” Dmytro Hrushchenko, a resident of recently liberated Zaliznychne, a small town near the eastern front line, told Sky News.
The general staff of the armed forces of Ukraine said Monday its troops had recaptured more than 20 settlements within the past day. The British Defense Ministry said that, in recent days, Kyiv’s forces had reclaimed territory at least the size of the London metropolitan area.
A senior U.S. military official said Monday Ukrainians are “making progress” in their efforts to reclaim territory in the south and the east and said Russian forces around Kharkiv have ceded ground to Ukraine.
The official said the Russian pullback was “indicative” of morale issues, among other factors, and said Ukraine has presented Russian forces with “multiple dilemmas.” Many of the Russian forces who have ceded ground have moved across the border to Russia, according to the official.
Analysts say the war is likely to continue into 2023, but the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said Monday that “Ukraine has turned the tide of this war in its favor” through its effective use of Western-supplied weapons like the long-range HIMARS missile system and strategic battlefield maneuvers. “Kyiv will likely increasingly dictate the location and nature of the major fighting.”
In Kharkiv, Ukrainian officials said power and water that had been cut off by Russia were restored to about 80% of the region’s population.
In Russia, some complaints were voiced, even on state-controlled television, about the setbacks its forces were sustaining.
“People who convinced President [Vladimir] Putin that the operation will be fast and effective … these people really set up all of us,” Boris Nadezhdin, a former parliament member, said on an NTV television talk show. “We’re now at the point where we have to understand that it’s absolutely impossible to defeat Ukraine using these resources and colonial war methods.”
Death, destruction continues
But the war’s death toll continued to mount, with Ukraine’s presidential office reporting that at least four civilians were killed, and 11 others wounded in a series of Russian attacks in nine regions of the country. Even in liberated Kharkiv, a police station in the city’s center was hit by a missile, setting part of it on fire and killing one person, a regional police chief said.
Russia also shelled Nikopol across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, damaging several buildings there. The last operational reactor in that plant has been shut down to prevent a radiation leak.