Ukrainian forces blew through Russian defense lines this weekend and recovered most of the eastern Kharkiv region in a swift armored offensive, the Associated Press reported Monday.
Ukraine has recaptured more than 1,100 square miles of territory in the eastern region since the beginning of September and pushed Russia all the way to the northeastern border in some places. On Friday, Russian troops fled a key military base in the city of Izium, which they have occupied for the past five months.
More than 40 settlements in the Kharkiv region have been liberated, Ukrainian officials reported Sunday. Roman Semenukha, deputy head of the Kharkiv region military administration, told Ukrainian television, "We can officially announce the liberation of more than 40 settlements. The situation is changing incredibly quickly and there are many, many more such [de-occupied] settlements."
Ukraine's successful offensive—its most ambitious ground assault yet—may mark a new phase in their war with Russia, CNN reports.
Poorly organized and equipped, Russian troops retreated quickly and chaotically.
"Russians escaped and left weapons and ammo behind. City center is free," a spokesperson for the Bohun Brigade of the Land Forces of Ukraine said in a statement Saturday afternoon.
Dmytro Hrushchenko, a resident of the recently liberated Zaliznychne, described the Russian retreat to Sky News: "The Russians were here in the morning. Then at noon, they suddenly started shouting wildly and began to run away, charging off in tanks and armored vehicles."
Even pro-Kremlin bloggers and Putin loyalists are losing faith in their leader, criticizing the president for his handling of the invasion.
Despite the retreat, Russia insists the war will continue. "We do not currently see any negotiation prospects and continue to state the absence of any prerequisites for such negotiations," the Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a press release.