Ukraine declared the recapture of the village of Urozhaine from Russian troops in the southeast, but cautioned that the situation on the northeastern front was deteriorating due to Russian counter-attacks.
Urozhaine, on the outskirts of the Donetsk area, is the first village Kyiv claims to have retaken since July 27, highlighting the difficulty Ukraine confronts in moving through highly mined Russian defense lines in the absence of powerful air support.
“Urozhaine is liberated,” Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said on the Telegram messaging app. “Our defenders are entrenched on the outskirts.”
The village is one of several small rural settlements near the Mokri Yaly river that Ukraine has declared liberated since early June, when it launched a long-touted counteroffensive against Russian troops who occupy swathes of the south and east.
Its recapture would bring Kyiv closer to threatening the village of Staromlynivka, several kilometres to the south, which military analysts say is a Russian stronghold in the area.
Russia’s defence ministry did not confirm losing Urozhaine in a statement on Telegram but said its artillery and warplanes were attacking Ukrainian forces in the Urozhaine area.
The village’s recapture would indicate Ukraine is pressing ahead with an offensive drive south towards the Sea of Azov that aims to cut Russian occupying forces in half. Urozhaine lies just over 90 km (55 miles) from the Sea of Azov.
Hours after the Urozhaine announcement, Oleksandr Syrskyi, one of Ukraine’s top generals, said the situation on the Kupiansk front in the northeastern region of Kharkiv was growing more difficult.
Kupiansk, a town with a pre-war population of around 27,000, was seized by Russia in the early days of the February 2022 invasion before Ukrainian troops recaptured it in a lightning offensive last September that embarrassed Moscow.
“Due to the complication of the situation in the Kupiansk direction, I worked most of the day with units that lead the defence on the approaches to the city,” Syrskyi was quoted as saying by Ukraine’s Military Media Center.
“The enemy is trying to break through the defences of our troops every day, in different directions, with assault squads consisting mainly of convicts, with the aim of blockading and then capturing Kupiansk,” he said.
Losing Kupiansk a second time would be a major blow to Kyiv’s battlefield momentum at a time when its summer counter-offensive has so far failed to deliver significant territorial gains, except for villages such as Urozhaine.
Regional authorities announced a mandatory evacuation of civilians from near the Kupiansk front earlier this month due to daily Russian shelling.
“Our house is the only one standing, there are no other houses left intact around ours,” said Oleh Yanytskyi, a resident of the village of Kurylivka who was evacuated by the Ukrainian Red Cross this week.
Kyiv says its counteroffensive is progressing slower than it wanted because of vast Russian minefields and prepared Russian defensive lines.
Russia controls nearly a fifth of Ukraine, including the peninsula of Crimea, most of Luhansk region and large tracts of the regions of Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.