Kyiv: Ukrainian forces have seized an expanding area of previously Russian-held territory in the east in a “very sharp and rapid” advance, a Russian-installed regional official said on Friday, in a breakthrough that may mark a turning point in the war.
After a day of silence, Russia has virtually admitted that part of its front has collapsed southeast of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.
“The enemy is being delayed as much as possible, but several settlements have already come under the control of Ukrainian armed formations,” Vitaly Ganchev, head of the Russian-backed administration in the Kharkiv region, said on state television.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy later said Kyiv’s forces had liberated more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region so far and that fighting continued in the eastern Donbas region and the south.
“Our army, intelligence units and the security services are carrying out active engagements in several operational areas. They are doing so successfully,” he said in a video address.
Gancev has said his government is trying to evacuate civilians from cities such as Izium, Russia’s main stronghold and logistics base in the province.
In a video posted on YouTube, Zelenskiy’s adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Russian defenders in Izium were all but isolated. Citing what he said were reports from the front, Arestovich said hundreds of Russians had been killed and hundreds more captured so far.
Reuters could not immediately confirm his claims.
Russia has controlled about a fifth of its territory since the February 24 invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces in what Moscow called a “special military operation” to “disarm” Ukraine. The Kyiv government and its Western allies have accused Russia of an imperial war of aggression.