Ukraine has made ‘significant gains’ and Russian troops has ‘likely withdrawn’ from Kharkiv region, says UK

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Ukrainian forces have made “significant territorial gains” forcing Russian troops to have withdraw, the Ministry of Defence has said.

Following the ambitious counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region, the MoD claimed fighting has now moved to the areas around Izium and Kupiansk. Both cities are “strategically important” to holding the region, the ministry said.

In its latest statement, the MoD said: “Over the last 24 hours, Ukrainian forces have continued to make significant gains in the Kharkiv region.

“Russia has likely withdrawn units from the area, but fighting continues around the strategically important cities of Kupiansk and Izium.”

According to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine has retaken 2,000 square kilometres (770 square miles) of territory from Russian forces since their surprise counteroffensive in Kharkiv.

Ukrainian forces made stunning advances in a rapid counter-offensive that has caught the Kremlin by surprise, with intelligence experts hailing a “major turning point” in the six-month war.

It has led to the recapture of several key towns in the east as Vladimir Putin’s forces fled in disarray from a collapsing frontline.

Towns entered by Ukrainian troops include Kupiansk, a key rail centre whose loss would severely hinder Russian supply lines. There are also reports of Putin’s troops and collaborators fleeing Izyum, another crucial logistics hub for the invasion.

In his Saturday night address, Zelensky said: “These days, the Russian army is showing its best – showing its back. And, in the end, it is a good choice for them to run away. There is and will be no place for the occupiers in Ukraine.”

Moscow has acknowledged that its frontline has buckled in Kharkiv, but has said it is rushing extra troops to reinforce the area. Natalia Popova, adviser to the head of the Kharkiv regional council, shared photos on Facebook of troops holding up the Ukrainian flag in front of Kupiansk’s city hall.

Ukraine’s security service confirmed Kyiv had forces inside the city, as well as in Hrakove, one of dozens of villages recaptured from Russian invaders.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said at least 30 settlements had been liberated in the Kharkiv region during the advance of recent days. The city of Izium, Russia’s main stronghold and logistics hub in the north-east of Ukraine, is now becoming increasingly cut off.

The Ukraine Ministry of Defence had earlier reported in an intelligence update: "A Russian force around Izium is likely isolated. Ukrainian units are now threatening the town of Kupiansk.

"Its capture would be a significant blow to Russia because it sits on supply routes to the Donbas frontline."

Mark Hertling, a retired general and former commander of US ground forces in Europe, posted on Twitter: "Make no mistake, Ukraine is executing a brilliant manoeuvre focused on terrain objectives to ‘bag’ Russians.

"But the Russians are helping them - by doing very little to counter."

Ukraine’s advance in the east is by far its most rapid success in months, after a long period in which the war had shifted into a relentless grind along entrenched front lines.

It came just a week after Kyiv announced the start of a long-awaited counter-attack to reclaim Russian-occupied territory.