Russian troops were forced to retreat to their homeland after Ukraine launched counterattacks to halt their main advance east.
Ukrainian military officials said their units operating in the region around Kharkiv and Izyum to the southeast forced Russian soldiers to switch from attack to defense.
They said Vladimir Putin’s units suffered “significant losses” and were “withdrawn from Ukraine to the Belgorod region”, 25 miles inside Russian territory.
As Ukrainian troops advanced towards the Russian border, they liberated four towns north of Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, the Ukrainian military said.
Ukraine’s deputy chief of operations, Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov, said: “The enemy went into defense after an unsuccessful assault around Kharkiv.
“In the direction of Kharkiv, the Ukrainian armed forces are having some success and liberating settlements.”
The Ukrainian counterattack in the northwest of the country could signal a new phase in the war, as resistance fighters attempt to starve Russia of troops and supplies in the eastern Donbass region.
Pushing back the Russian troops who had occupied the outskirts of Kharkiv since the start of the invasion, kyiv’s forces closed in on the main lines of supply that fueled Moscow’s offensives further south.
Neil Melvin, of the Royal United Services Institute, said: “Ukrainians are getting closer to the Russian border. So all the gains that the Russians made early on in northeastern Ukraine are getting further and further away.
But as they were driven out of the Kharkiv region, the Russians murdered civilians, destroyed homes and left a host of “death traps”.
Kharkiv 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 calm.
“It is dangerous to return to recently liberated settlements. The enemy completely undermined everything, including schools, kindergartens and private homes.
President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the efforts of his fighters. “Occupants are gradually being pushed back,” he said. “I am grateful to all of our defenders who hold the line and show truly superhuman strength to chase away the invaders.”
Ukrainian fighters have also had success in Izyum, which is strategically important for Russia if it wishes to take control of the Donbass region.
A Ukrainian soldier fighting on the outskirts of Kharkiv said he would be able to make greater progress with more Western weapons.
The fighter, who goes by the name ‘Uncle Roma’, said: “The weapons help us a lot, especially the anti-tank. I wish we could have more. We use the weapons for specific targets and here you see the results.
Building on Ukraine’s recent successes, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said kyiv could move to liberate Crimea if its forces could defeat Russia in Donbass.
“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)