Ukraine’s forces have continued to press their Kharkiv counterattack, seeking to take control of almost all of the province, as Russia launched dozens of air and missile strikes on power plants and other locations in apparent retaliation for Kyiv’s success.
Kyiv’s troops headed north, reportedly recapturing towns all the way to the Russian border, and a video circulated of a Ukrainian soldier at the centre of the strategic city of Izium as the week-long counteroffensive in north-east continues.
The governor of the Kharkiv region, Oleh Syniehubov, said the “enemy hastily abandons its positions and flees deep into the previously occupied territories” and that “in some areas of the front, our defenders reached the state border”.
Ukraine also accused Russia of engaged in 18 missile and 39 air strikes overnight, including one Ukraine on a power station plunged parts of Kharkiv city into darkness, also cutting its water supply. Ukraine said it had restored 80% of the lost supply by Monday morning.
The Kremlin insisted on Monday that Russia would achieve all of its aims in Ukraine.
Reacting to the missile strikes, a defiant Ukrainian president said the attacks on the country’s power grid – particularly feared in the run-up to the winter – would not intimidate the people.
“Do you still think you can intimidate, break us, force us to make concessions?” Volodymyr Zelenskiy said. “Cold, hunger, darkness and thirst for us are not as scary and deadly as your friendship’ and brotherhood. We will be with gas, lights, water and food and without you.”
Britain’s Ministry of Defence said on Monday morning that it believed Russia was likely to have ordered its troops to withdraw “from the entirety of occupied Kharkiv oblast west of the Oskil river”, a retreat apparently shown on maps released by Russia’s defence ministry on Sunday.
Pockets of Russian resistance remain, but the UK ministry said: “Since Wednesday, Ukraine has recaptured territory at least twice the size of Greater London” in successes likely to have “significant implications for Russia’s overall operational design”.
In its first public response to Ukraine’s gains in the Kharkiv region, which began less than a week ago, the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that “the military operation continues” and that “it will continue until the goals that were originally set are achieved”.
He did not reply directly when asked if Vladimir Putin had confidence in his country’s military leadership.
Ukraine has recaptured more than 3,000 sq km (1,160 sq miles) of territory since last Tuesday, driving Russian forces out of territory west of the Oskil river it had planned to occupy permanently from Izium to the border.
The goal was to seize Izium, which Zelenskiy confirmed had been captured on Sunday night. Izium, which is a gateway to the Donbas towns still held by Ukraine, was lost in heavy fighting in March.
“Ukrainian forces have inflicted a major operational defeat on Russia, recapturing almost all Kharkiv oblast in a rapid counteroffensive,” said the Institute of the Study of War, a US thinktank. The success came partly because Kyiv talked up its plans to attack Kherson in the south, drawing away troops that had been defending the area east of Kharkiv city, previously considered a quiet part of the front.
Russian military bloggers said the Kremlin’s goal was to establish a new frontline along the Oskil, although it was unclear if this could be achieved or if Ukraine would be able to press forward into Luhansk province, which the Russians have almost completely controlled since July.
The Ukrainian governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai, said Russian troops had fled from Svatovo, about 30 miles (50km) due east of the Oskil river, captured over the weekend, and the first significant town from recently recaptured Kupiansk. Only Luhansk separatist troops remained, he said on Monday.