Ukrainian troops have pressed deeper into Russian-occupied territory in a continuing counteroffensive by Ukraine that has inflicted a stunning blow on Moscow’s military prestige.
As the advance continued on Tuesday, Ukraine’s border guard services said the army took control of Vovchansk — a town that lies just 3km (2 miles) from Russia and was seized on the first day of the war.
Russian troops were also abandoning the southern city of Melitopol and heading towards Moscow-annexed Crimea, the city’s mayor said.
Moscow, however, said at its daily briefing that its military was carrying out “massive strikes” across the Ukrainian frontline.
“Air, rocket and artillery forces are carrying out massive strikes on units of the Ukrainian armed forces in all operational directions,” the Russian defence ministry said on Tuesday.
“High-precision” strikes have also been launched on Ukrainian positions around Sloviansk and Konstantinovka in the eastern Donetsk region, it added.
The claims by each side has not been independently confirm military claims made by either side.
Since Moscow abandoned its main stronghold in northeastern Ukraine on Saturday, marking its worst defeat since the early days of the war, Ukrainian troops have recaptured dozens of towns in what appears to be a stunning shift in battleground momentum.Asked whether Ukraine had reached a turning point in the six-month war, United States President Joe Biden said it was hard to tell.
“It’s clear the Ukrainians have made significant progress. But I think it’s going to be a long haul.”
The US, which has provided billions of dollars of weapons and support, said earlier that it was likely to announce more military aid for Ukraine in “coming days”.
Speaking in the central square of Balakliia, a crucial military supply hub taken by Ukrainian forces late last week, Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said 150,000 people had been liberated from Russian rule in the area.
Ukrainian flags had been raised and a large crowd gathered to receive bundles of humanitarian aid. A shopping centre had been destroyed but many buildings remained intact, with shops closed and boarded up.