LONDON — One month after their counteroffensive began, Ukrainian forces have gained significant ground following months of Russia’s advances in the south and east of the country.
The dramatic breakthrough follows weeks of progress, albeit slow, by Kyiv’s military. According to the Institute for the Study of War, Ukraine’s counteroffensive made substantial headway from Sept. 4 to Oct. 3 in regaining territory from the northern city of Kharkiv to the border with Luhansk as well as several pockets in northern Kherson.
This is the map from Sept. 4:
In his nightly address on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said more than 450 settlements had been liberated thanks to the “defense operation that began in September and is still ongoing.”
In a video shared on Twitter, one Ukrainian soldier claimed forces have liberated the village of Davydiv Brid, among many others. These areas had been taken by the Russian military over a period of two weeks from Feb. 24 to March 2. Kherson, the major city in the province, was the first city in Ukraine to be occupied by Kremlin-led forces during the invasion.
This is the map from Oct. 3:
However, over the past week, Russia has pushed forward in attempting to retake Ukrainian territory. On Friday, seven months after it began its brutal invasion, President Vladimir Putin annexed four Ukrainian regions — the largest takeover of territory in Europe since World War II.
Kremlin-orchestrated independence referenda were held in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in what Western leaders described as illegal annexations and a “blatant flouting of international law.” Just a few days after the annexation, it appeared that Russia no longer had full control over the provinces Putin had declared independent from Kyiv.
Military expert Justin Crump told Sky News that Ukrainian forces had been focusing on taking the eastern town of Lyman in a bid to discredit the referenda that had taken place days before. On Saturday, some 5,000 Russian troops who had been stationed in the strategic town were forced to withdraw.
This decision was criticized by some of Putin’s powerful supporters and allies. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu came under fire from Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. In a post to Telegram translated by the New York Times, Kadyrov said Russia had “covered” for an “incompetent” general.