Firefighters work to put out a fire Monday at a police building in Kharkiv, Ukraine, which was hit by a Russian missile. Photo by Sergey Kozlov/EPA-EFE
Sept. 13 (UPI) — Ukrainian forces continued to press for the withdrawal of Russian troops on Tuesday in the country’s northeast, and military officials said Kiev’s counteroffensive has regained more than 2,400 square miles of territory.
Ukraine’s blitzkrieg counteroffensive has been a stunning and unexpected setback for the Russian military, and experts say it could mark a turning point in the war, which has raged for nearly seven months.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his army had made territorial gains and liberated some settlements but still did not have full control of Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city. Since fighting began in February, Russia has been unable to take control of Kharkiv.
Zelensky said Ukrainian forces are also making concerted efforts in the east and south.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said many areas are still contested.
“The goal is to liberate the Kharkiv region and beyond — all territories occupied by the Russian Federation,” Malyar said, according to The Guardian.
“It is still too early to say that full control over the Kharkiv region has been established. Our strength stems from the fact that we are highly motivated and that we plan operations thoroughly.”
A woman walks through a badly damaged school for visually impaired children after a Russian missile attack in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on July 7. File photo by Sergey Kozlov/EPA-EFE
Meanwhile, Ukrainian border officials released a video showing Ukrainian troops in the northern city of Vovchansk tearing down Russian banners and burning the Russian flag after it was liberated. Vovchansk is close to Ukraine’s border with Russia.
Despite Moscow’s latest setbacks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday doubled down and said Russia is determined to stay the course.
“[Russia will continue fighting] until the goals that have been set are achieved,” Peskov said, according to The Washington Post.
Russia has failed to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and has been fighting to control Ukraine’s Donbas region in the east since the spring. Donbass consists of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Ukrainian officials also said Tuesday that forces shot down an Iranian-made drone being used by Russia near Kupyansk. Intelligence sources have said Tehran was providing Moscow with drone equipment for use in Ukraine.
“Analysis of the appearance of the elements of the drone’s wing allows us to say with certainty that the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed an Iranian UAV for the first time,” the Directorate of Strategic Communications of Ukraine said according to CNN.