Western official: Too early to say Ukrainian gains are a turning point

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Remains of a Russian cruise missile are seen at a compound of a heavily damaged power substation in Kharkiv

LONDON (Reuters) - It is too early to say whether recent gains made by Ukraine in the east of the country at the expense of Russia are a turning point in the war, a Western official said on Tuesday.

"It's too early to say whether this is a turning point in the war, but it's a moment that has power in terms of both operations... and psychology," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

"There's an ongoing debate about the nature of the Russian drawdown, however it's likely that in strict military terms, this was a withdrawal, ordered and sanctioned by the general staff, rather than an outright collapse."

Since Moscow abandoned its main bastion in northeastern Ukraine on Saturday, marking its worst defeat since the early days of the war, Ukrainian troops have recaptured dozens of towns in a stunning shift in battleground momentum.

"Obviously, it looks really dramatic. It's a vast area of land. But we have to factor in the Russians have made some good decisions in terms of shortening their lines and making them more defensible, and sacrificing territory in order to do so," the official said, adding he did not expect Russia to immediately seek to regain lost territory.

"They're already stretched, they are facing attack on multiple fronts, so I think they will seek to consolidate... will they try to go back to Kharkhiv in the future? Potentially, but certainly not in the immediate timeframe."

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by William James)