Ukraine’s counter-offensive against Vladimir Putin’s troops in the south of the country is making “verifiable progress,” military experts said on Monday.
The Institute for the Study of War, though, said Russia had made some “confirmed advances” in the eastern Donbas region.
British defence chiefs, stressed Mr Putin’s army was seizing territory at only 1km (0.62 miles) a week in a part of this industrial area of the country.
The ISW, a Washington-based think tank, tweeted: “The Ukrainian counteroffensive is making verifiable progress in the south and the east.
“Ukrainian forces are advancing along several axes in western Kherson Oblast (province) and have secured territory across the Siverskyi Donets River in Donetsk Oblast.
“Ukraine liberated at least 3 villages in the south & east.”
The ISW also stressed that the Ukrainian liberation of Vysokopillya had “ignited critical discussions” among some Russian milbloggers.
The Russian Defence Ministry, it added, was still insisting that Ukrainian attacks continued to result in “unsuccessful attempts” to advance.
The ISW also emphasised: “Russians made some confirmed advances near Soledar in Donetsk and made new claims over Arkhanhelske.”
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace updated MPs on the conflict on their return from their summer break from Westminster.
He said: “On August 29, Ukraine embarked on a counter-offensive in the south of the country around the city of Kherson, on the west bank of the Dnipro River.
“Ukraine has inflicted serious damage on a range of river crossings with the aim of restricting Russian logistical support.
“This has had some considerable success.”
He added: “The Ukrainian forces have made real progress on assaulting on three axes, especially on the advance to the south of the city. “
Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will be replaced by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on Tuesday, spoke to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky on his last day in office.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister made clear that he believed President Zelensky and his people can and will win the war in Ukraine.
“President Zelensky thanked the Prime Minister for believing in Ukraine and its people and updated on the recent progress of his Armed Forces in the south of the country.
“The Prime Minister said he was convinced the Ukrainian forces could continue to succeed in pushing back Russian forces and added that the UK remained steadfast in its support.”
The Ministry of Defence in London said Mr Putin’s “main effort” in Ukraine still appeared to be trying to seize the whole of the Donbas region, with “principal axes” of advance remaining at Avdiivka near the city of Donetsk and, 60km (37 miles) to the north, around Bakhmut.
In its latest intelligence update, the MoD said: “Although Russia has had the most success in this sector, its forces have still only been advancing around 1km per week towards Bakhmut.
“The political goal of the Donbas operation almost certainly remains to secure the whole of Donetsk Oblast, which would enable the Kremlin to announce the ‘liberation’ of the Donbas. Russian forces have highly likely repeatedly missed deadlines to achieve this aim.
“The Ukrainian authorities have claimed that Russian forces are now under orders to complete this mission by 15 September 2022.
“The force is highly unlikely to achieve this, which will further complicate Russia’s plans to run referendums on the occupied areas joining the Russian Federation.”
In his overnight address to the nation, Mr Zelensky reported progress in the counter-offensive against Russian troops but warned of a difficult winter ahead.
He thanked his forces for taking two settlements in the south and a third, along with additional territory, in the east, citing “good reports” from his military commanders and intelligence head.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office, earlier posted an image of soldiers raising the Ukrainian flag over a village he said was in the southern area that is the main focus of the counter-offensive.
“Vysokopillya. Kherson region. Ukraine. Today,” Tymoshenko wrote on Facebook over a photograph of three soldiers on rooftops, one of them fixing a Ukrainian flag to a post.
Ukraine began the counter-offensive last week targeting the south, particularly the Kherson region, which Russia seized early in the conflict.
Ukrainian Telegram channels reported explosions at the Antonivsky bridge near the city of Kherson, occupied by Russian forces.
Ukrainian missiles have severely damaged the bridge over the past weeks, but Russian troops were trying to repair it or to set up a pontoon crossing or barges to maintain supplies to their units on the right bank of the Dnipro River.
After Ukrainian forces’ intense shelling of clusters of Russian troops in the region, the Russians have banned movement of residents, forbidding them to cross the Dnipro River, the Ukrainian general staff said on Monday.
Russia has launched 25 missile strikes, and more than 22 air strikes, on military and civilian targets in Ukraine in the last 24 hours, the statement added, keeping up its focus on establishing full control over the Donetsk region.
Mr Zelensky’s remarks came a day after he warned Europeans that Russia was preparing “a decisive energy blow” during the cold months ahead.
Moscow has cited Western sanctions and technical issues for the energy disruptions. European countries, which have backed Kyiv with diplomatic and military support, have accused Russia of weaponising energy supplies.
Some analysts say the shortages and a surge in living costs as winter approaches risk sapping Western support for Kyiv as governments try to soothe disgruntled populations.
Last week Moscow said it would keep closed the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, its main gas channel to Germany, while G7 countries announced a planned price cap on Russian oil exports.
The Kremlin said it would stop selling oil to nations that adopted the cap.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Sunday his government had been planning for a total halt in gas deliveries in December, promising measures to lower prices and tie social benefits to inflation.
“Russia is no longer a reliable energy partner,” Mr Scholz told a news conference in Berlin.
In response, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused Germany of being an enemy of Russia. “In other words, it has declared a hybrid war on Russia,” he said.
On Sunday, Finland and Sweden announced plans to offer billions of dollars to power companies to avert the threat of insolvency amid the crisis.
Meanwhile, Russian authorities said the situation was calm around the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southern Ukraine, after UN inspectors said on Saturday it had again lost external power and there were more reports of Russian firing from the area.
Three strong explosions were heard in Energodar, the curfew-bound city where the plant is located, but there were no immediate details of damage and casualties, Russia’s official TASS news agency said on Monday.
Ukraine and Russia have both accused each other of launching attacks near the nuclear plant.
The last main external power line was cut off, although a reserve line kept up electricity supply to the grid, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.
Only one of its six reactors remained in operation, it said.
Russian troops seized the plant shortly after Mr Putin sent his army over the border on February 24. It has become a focal point of the conflict. Each side has blamed the other for shelling that has raised fears of a nuclear disaster.