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By Joe Barnes and James Kilner
Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo: Reuters

Russian troops have been forced to retreat to their homeland after Ukraine launched counter-attacks to halt their main advance in the east.

Ukrainian military officials said their units operating in the region around Kharkiv and Izyum to the south east, had forced Russian soldiers to switch from attack to defence.

They said Vladimir Putin’s units had sustained “significant loses” and were “withdrawn from Ukraine to the Belgorod region”, 25 miles inside Russia’s territory.

As Ukrainian troops advanced towards the Russian border, they liberated four towns to the north of Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, the Ukrainian army said.

Ukraine’s deputy chief of operations Brig Gen Oleksiy Hromov said: “The enemy switched to defence after an unsuccessful assault around Kharkiv.

“In the Kharkiv direction, the Ukrainian armed forces see some success and are liberating settlements.”

The Ukrainian counter-attack in the north west of the country could signal a new phase in the war, with resistance fighters attempting to starve Russia of troops and supplies in the eastern Donbas region.

By pushing back Russian troops who had occupied the outskirts of Kharkiv since the start of the invasion, Kyiv’s forces are moving into striking distance of key supply lines fuelling Moscow’s offensives further south.

Neil Melvin, of the Royal United Services Institute, said: “Ukrainians are getting close to the Russian border. So all the gains that the Russians made in the early days in the north east of Ukraine are increasingly slipping away.”

But as they were driven out of the Kharkiv region, Russians murdered civilians, destroyed homes and left a host of “deadly booby traps”.

Kharkiv’s regional governor Oleg Synegubov said: “Thanks to the successful actions of the armed forces and the liberation of a number of settlements in Kharkiv, it is now relatively quiet.

“It is dangerous to return to the recently liberated settlements. The enemy has completely mined everything, including schools, kindergartens and private homes.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the efforts by his fighters. “The occupiers are gradually being pushed away,” he said. “I am grateful to all our defenders who are holding the line and demonstrating truly superhuman strength to drive out the invaders.”

Ukrainian fighters have also had success in Izyum, which is strategically important to Russia if it wishes to seize control of the Donbas region.

A Ukrainian soldier fighting on the outskirts of Kharkiv said they would be able to make greater progress with more Western weapons.

The fighter, who goes by the name “Uncle Roma”, said: “The weapons are helping us a lot, especially the anti-tank one. I wish that we could get more of them. We use the weapons for specific targets and here you see the results.”

Buoyed by Ukraine’s recent successes foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kyiv could move to liberate Crimea if its forces can defeat Russia in the Donbas.

“Now if we are strong enough on the military front...the victory for us in this war will be the liberation of the rest of our territories,” he said. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)


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Dive Deeper:
Ukrainians make gains in east as they hold ground at Mariupol mill
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv’s military has made small gains near the eastern city of Kharkiv.
Russian troops in Kharkiv pushed back by Ukrainian counter-offensive, Zelensky says
Russian troops have been pushed back ‘within 10km’ of the border, according to intelligence
Russians 'pushed away' from Kharkiv as Washington boosts aid
Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) - Ukraine said Wednesday it was pushing Russian troops away from the country's second city Kharkiv but…
Ukraine chokes off Russian gas supplies to Europe as pictures show wounded Ukrainian soldiers inside Azovstal steel mill
Ukraine's natural gas pipeline operator said it would stop Russian shipments through a key hub in the east of the…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Russian invasion in eastern Ukraine reaching stalemate, says US official
Pentagon intelligence chief suggests neither side winning despite claim by Kyiv that its forces are pushing Russian troops back
Russians 'pushed away from Kharkiv' as Washington warns of long war
Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) - Russian troops are being pushed away from Ukraine's second city Kharkiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, but…
Get all your news in one place