As they retook three villages from Russian forces in the country’s southeast on Sunday, Ukrainian forces announced their first victories in a keenly anticipated counteroffensive.
If confirmed, it would suggest that Ukraine gained real geographical gains during the first week of its comeback against Moscow.
Unconfirmed video showed Kyiv’s men raising the Ukrainian flag over a structure in the Donetsk area town of Blahodatne and posing with their unit flag in the neighboring village of Neskuchne.
According to a statement from the deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar, the army also apparently retook Makarivka, the next settlement to the south, and pushed between 300 and 1,500 meters in both directions on the southern front.
Success has also been seen in the Bakhmut direction, the minister said.
Volodymyr Zelensky praised Ukrainian troops last night and said: “Of course, I am thankful to our soldiers for this day”.
On Friday, Vladimir Putin hinted that a Ukrainian military advance was under way but had failed to penetrate Russian defensive lines and had resulted in significant fatalities. This was an oblique confirmation of the long-anticipated counteroffensive.
In order to protect the operation, Kiev has kept details of its counteroffensive a secret and has advised Ukrainians to keep anything they know to themselves.
The footage from Blahodatne showed Ukrainian soldiers inside a severely damaged building as distant artillery fire rumbled.
“We’re kicking the enemy out from our native lands. It’s the warmest feeling there is. Ukraine is going to win, Ukraine above everything,” an unidentified soldier said in the video on Facebook.
At least twice this week, Russia claimed to have thwarted Ukrainian attacks near the Velyka Novosilka hamlet.
The seized southeast is thought to be a possible focus for Kiev’s soldiers, who may want to cut off Russia’s land connection to the Crimean peninsula that has been annexed and divide Russian forces in half.
The city of Mariupol, which is located on the Sea of Azov at the southern edge of the land bridge, is about 90 kilometers (56 miles) (northwest) from Makarikva. The main city was taken by Russia last year following a lengthy siege and bombardment.
To defend itself from a Ukrainian counterattack including tens of thousands of troops that the West has trained and armed, Russia has erected massive fortifications throughout the captured region.
Additionally, Ms. Maliar reported that Ukrainian forces had advanced 250m (820ft) near the Berkhivka Reservoir and were still engaged in assault operations in the east, close to the damaged city of Bakhmut.
Although Kyiv claims it has been reclaiming territory on the city’s flanks, Russia claims that it conquered the city of Bakhmut last month following the bloodiest and longest combat of the war.
A motorized infantry brigade has just advanced on the front line in the eastern city of Avdiivka and captured a Russian position, according to a separate statement from the general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces, but it gave no further details.
In other news, the Ukrainian president said on Sunday that the International Criminal Court’s investigation into the Kakhovka dam breach had already begun.
“Representatives of the International Criminal Court have visited Kherson region in recent days,” Mr Zelensksy said in his nightly video address.
“On the very first day after the disaster, the general prosecutor’s office sent a corresponding request to the International Criminal Court concerning an investigation of this disaster and the work has already begun.”
International legal experts must view the disaster’s aftermath, including instances of shelling of flooded communities, according to Mr. Zelensky. According to officials, Russian shelling of boats carrying evacuees on Sunday resulted in the deaths of three persons.
According to the president, Ukrainian rescue personnel have rescued nearly 4,000 people from damaged districts, including those on the east bank of the Dnipro River that is seized by Russia.