Ukraine said on Monday its troops had liberated the southeastern settlement of Robotyne and were trying to push further south in their counteroffensive against Russian forces.
The Ukrainian military said last week that its forces had raised the national flag in the strategic settlement, but were still carrying out mopping-up operations.
Ukrainian forces believe they have broken through the most difficult line of Russian defenses in the south and that they will now start advancing more quickly, a commander who led troops into Robotyne told Reuters last week.
“Robotyne has been liberated,” Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar was quoted as saying by the military.
The settlement is 10 km (six miles) south of the frontline town of Orikhiv in the Zaporizhzhia region on an important road towards Tokmak, a Russian-occupied road and rail hub.
Tokmak’s capture would be a milestone as Ukrainian troops press southwards towards the Sea of Azov in a military drive that is intended to split Russian forces following Moscow’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.
Maliar told Ukrainian television that Kyiv’s troops, who began their counteroffensive in early June, were now moving southeast of Robotyne and south of nearby Mala Tokmachka.
Ukraine’s success in retaking Robotyne, which Russia has not confirmed, follows media reports of a meeting this month of senior NATO military chiefs and Ukraine’s top general on resetting Ukraine’s military strategy.
‘Very hot’ on eastern front
Ukrainian forces are also fighting Russian troops in eastern Ukraine, and progress has been slower than had been widely expected in the counteroffensive because they have encountered vast Russian minefields and trenches.
Maliar described the battlefield situation in the east as “very hot” in the past week. She said Russian troops were gathering new forces there and regrouping, and Moscow was aiming to deploy its best troops there.
Ukrainian forces had continued to advance south of Bakhmut, she said, referring to the nearly devastated eastern city that was captured by Moscow’s troops in May after months of fierce fighting.
She added that in the past week Ukrainian forces had retaken 1 square km (0.39 square mile) around Bakhmut, and Russian troops had not made any advances.
In the latest of Russia’s frequent air strikes on Ukraine, two people were killed overnight when a vegetable oil plant was hit in the central Poltava region, the region’s governor said.
Russia said it had shot down a Ukrainian drone flying towards Moscow in the early hours of Monday, in an incident that briefly disrupted flights over the Russian capital.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the situation on the battlefield of the reports of the latest attacks.