Ukraine claimed Monday that it took several more villages, pushing Russian forces right back to the northeastern border, part of a lightning counteroffensive that forced Moscow to withdraw troops from some areas in recent weeks.
After months of little discernible movement on the battlefield, Kyiv’s sudden momentum has lifted Ukrainian morale up and provoked outrage in Russia and even some rare public criticism of President Vladimir Putin’s war. As Ukrainian flags began to flutter over one city emerging from Russian occupation, a local leader alleged the Kremlin’s troops had committed atrocities against civilians there similar to those in other places seized by Moscow.
“In some areas of the front, our defenders reached the state border with the Russian Federation,” said Oleh Syniehubov, the governor of the northeastern Kharkiv region. Over the weekend, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed troops would be pulled from two areas in that region to regroup in the eastern region of Donetsk.
It was not yet clear if Ukraine’s latest blitz could signal a turning point in the war — though some analysts suggested it might be while also cautioning there would likely be months more fighting. Momentum has switched back and forth before. Still, the mood was jubilant across the country.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine claimed on Monday that its troops had liberated more than 20 settlements within the past day. In Kharkiv, authorities hailed some return to normalcy, noting that power and water had been restored to about 80% of the region’s population following Russian attacks on infrastructure that knocked out electricity in many places across Ukraine.
“You are heroes!!!” wrote Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov early in the morning on Telegram, referring to those restoring utilities. “Thanks to everyone who did everything possible on this most difficult night for Kharkiv to normalize the life of the city as soon as possible.”
The buoyant mood was also captured by a defiant President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on social media late Sunday.
“Do you still think you can intimidate, break us, force us to make concessions?” Zelenskyy asked. “Cold, hunger, darkness and thirst for us are not as scary and deadly as your ‘friendship’ and brotherhood.’”