Kyiv announced on Saturday its forces were making lightning gains in the east of the country in a shock counter-offensive to recapture territory that fell to Russia shortly after Moscow’s February invasion.
Foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said in a statement on social media: “Ukrainian troops are advancing in eastern Ukraine, liberating more cities and villages.
“Their courage coupled with Western military support brings astonishing results.
“It’s crucial to keep sending arms to Ukraine. Defeating Russia on the battlefield means winning peace in Ukraine.”
James Mates, from ITV, said: “An extraordinary Russian military collapse is unfolding in Eastern Ukraine.
“Towns and cities that took Ru weeks to capture have fallen in hours to a lightning counter-offensive.”
It comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said troops had “liberated dozens of settlements” and reclaimed more than 1,000 square kilometres (385 square miles) of territory in Kharkiv and in Kherson over the past week.
On Friday, he posted a video of Ukrainian soldiers announcing they had captured the eastern town of Balakliia, south of Kharkiv.
Speaking from Kyiv during his nightly address, Mr Zelensky said his forces are “gradually taking control of new settlements” and “returning the Ukrainian flag and protection for all our people”.
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Russian state television broadcast an interview on Friday acknowledging that Kyiv had achieved a “substantial victory” in the region.
Russian state TV showed the head of the Russian-installed occupation administration for Kharkiv province, Vitaly Ganchev, saying in an interview: “The very fact of a breach of our defences is already a substantial victory for the Ukrainian armed forces.”
Russia’s defence ministry also released a video of its troops being rushed to reinforce the area.
The UK Ministry of Defence also said on Saturday: “Ukrainian forces launched offensive operations in the south of Kharkiv Oblast on 06 September 2022.
“Lead elements have advanced up to 50km into previously Russian held territory on a narrow front. Russian forces were likely taken by surprise.
“The sector was only lightly held and Ukrainian units have captured or surrounded several towns. A Russian force around Izium is likely increasingly isolated.
“Ukrainian units are now threatening the town of Kupiansk; its capture would be a significant blow to Russia because it sits on supply routes to the Donbas front line.
“With Ukrainian operations also continuing in Kherson, the Russian defensive front is under pressure on both its northern and southern flanks.”