Ukraine’s president, Volodimir Zelensky says his country’s military has retaken more than 1,000 sq km (385 sq miles) of territory in its south and east from Russia in the last week.
After undergoing war games and training with US forces in Germany, Ukraine buoyed by more modern HIMARS weapons supplied by the US and its allies, launched a counter-offensive on 1 September.
More than 20 villages in the Kharkiv region have been recaptured, while areas in Kherson have been “liberated” according to Zelensky.
Since the offensive began, Russia has denied reports that Ukraine was making gains on the battlefield and released a video this week showing military trucks speeding along a highway calling them ‘reinforcements.
Russia’s military said it was sending reinforcements to the region by road and by air, using giant Mi-26 transport helicopters, each capable of carrying 80 soldiers but on Friday, September 9, Russia’s top occupation official in Kharkiv region conceded Ukrainian forces had won a “significant victory”.
Vitaly Ganchev told Russian TV: “It would probably be irresponsible of me to say that they have not achieved any successes at all. The very fact that they broke through our defence line is, of course, a significant victory for them.”
He said that civilians were being evacuated from Kupiansk, one of the most important urban centres in the Russian-held part of Kharkiv, and two other towns.
According to analysis by the Institute for the Study of War think tank, Kyiv’s troops are now just 15km (9 miles) from Kupiansk, home to an essential railway junction that Moscow has been using to supply its troops on the battlefield.
In a separate Facebook post Ukraine’s army said that in the last three days alone, its troops had advanced 50km (30 miles). If true, that would mark the fastest movement of the front line since the rapid retreat of Russian forces from positions around the capital, Kyiv, in March.
The offensive south-east of Kharkiv would also bring Ukraine’s troops closer to the eastern region of Donetsk, over which Russia has maintained substantial military control since the invasion began six months ago.
None of the claims from Ukraine or Russia have been verified by independent media agencies but social media posts that have been geolocated showed Ukrainian flags flying from administrative buildings in the city’s centre on Thursday September 9.