Ukraine hails first territory recaptured in counteroffensive

Ukraine has said its troops recaptured three villages from Russian forces in its southeast, the first liberated settlements it reported since launching a counteroffensive.

Soldiers hoisted the Ukrainian flag at a bombed-out building in an unverified video published on Sunday by Ukraine’s 68th Jaeger Brigade, which identified the settlement as Blahodatne in the Donetsk region.

“We’re seeing the first results of the counteroffensive actions, localised results,” Valeriy Shershen, spokesperson for Ukraine’s “Tavria” military sector, said on television.

Ukraine forces also retook Makarivka, the next village to the south, advancing between 300 and 1,500 metres (985-4,920 feet) along two directions on the southern front, according to a statement from Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar.

A Ukrainian territorial defence unit also posted unverified footage on Telegram of its soldiers holding up their flag in Neskuchne, the village closest to Ukrainian positions in the area.

“No positions were lost on the directions where our forces are on the defensive,” Maliar added.

In his nightly video address, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, praised his troops, but made no reference to the specific areas where the fighting was reported.

“Of course, I am thankful to our soldiers for this day,” Zelenskyy said, referring only to the two main sectors of the fighting in the east and the south.

“Each one of our combat brigades, each of our units.”

In Blahodatne, on the edge of the Donetsk and Zaporizhia regions, Myroslav Semeniuk, a spokesman for the Jaeger Brigade, told The Associated Press that an assault team captured six Russian troops after entering several buildings where some 60 soldiers were holed up.

The Russian defence ministry on Sunday continued to insist it was repelling Ukrainian attacks in the area. It said in a statement that Ukrainian attempts at offensive operations on the southern Donetsk and Zaporizhia axes of the front line over the past 24 hours had been “unsuccessful”.

Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed official in the Zaporizhia region, insisted Blahodatne and two other villages in the region were a “grey area” in terms of control.

With so little information and scant independent reporting from the front lines, it has been almost impossible to assess the battlefield situation.

“We’re kicking the enemy out from our native lands. It’s the warmest feeling there is. Ukraine is going to win, Ukraine above everything,” an unidentified soldier said in the video from Blahodatne.

The occupied southeast is seen as a probable priority for Kyiv’s forces because recapturing territory there would position Ukraine to threaten Russia’s land bridge to the annexed Crimean Peninsula and split Russian forces in half.