The Ministry of Defence (MoD) have confirmed claims made by Ukraine yesterday regarding territory being won back.
According to Western intelligence, the redeployment of some Russian forces as they concentrate on gains elsewhere has left them unable to hold territory against Ukrainian advances.
In an update, the MoD said: “Ukrainian forces are continuing to counter-attack to the north of Kharkiv, recapturing several towns and villages towards the Russian border.
"Russia’s prioritisation of operations in the Donbas has left elements deployed in the Kharkiv Oblast vulnerable to the mobile, and highly motivated, Ukrainian counter-attacking force.
"Despite Russia’s success in encircling Kharkiv in the initial stages of the conflict, it has reportedly withdrawn units from the region to reorganise and replenish its forces following heavy losses.”
The update continued: “Once reconstituted, these forces will likely deploy to the eastern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, forming a blocking force to protect the western flank of Russia’s main force concentration and main supply routes for operations in the vicinity of Izium.
"The withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kharkiv Oblast is a tacit recognition of Russia’s inability to capture key Ukrainian cities where they expected limited resistance from the population.”
Ukraine has offered to release Russian prisoners of war in exchange for the safe evacuation of the badly injured fighters trapped inside a steel mill in the ruined city of Mariupol.
While fighting raged in Ukraine’s east and south, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Wednesday that negotiations were underway to release the injured fighters who are holed up in the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol. She said there were different options, but “none of them is ideal”.
In the southern Kherson region, site of the first major Ukrainian city to fall in the war, a Moscow-appointed leader said officials there want Russian President Vladimir Putin to annex the area.
Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Kherson regional administration appointed by Moscow, told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency: “The city of Kherson is Russia.”
That raised the possibility that the Kremlin would seek to break off another piece of Ukraine as it tries to salvage an invasion gone awry.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which borders the Kherson region, after a disputed referendum in 2014, a move denounced as illegal and rejected by most of the international community.
A Black Sea port of roughly 300,000, Kherson provides Crimea with access to fresh water and is seen as a gateway to wider Russian control over southern Ukraine.
Ukraine shut down one of the pipelines that carry Russian gas across the country to homes and industries in western Europe, the first time since the start of the war that Kyiv has disrupted the flow westward of one of Moscow’s most lucrative exports.
The immediate effect is likely to be limited, in part because Russia can divert the gas to another pipeline and because Europe relies on a variety of suppliers.