Ukrainian forces reached the Russian border yesterday after a lightning offensive that resulted in the sacking of a senior Russian general.
It came as the Kremlin insisted it was going to win the war, even though Kharkiv had been liberated after the units defending it collapsed and fled.
Ukrainian forces reached areas near the northeastern border with Russia that had been occupied since the first day of the war in February. They are also said to have crossed the Siversky Donets River in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, threatening Russian lines of communication there.
Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, promised that the “special military operation” would continue, but refused to answer directly when asked if Putin still had faith in the country’s military leadership. “The military operation continues. And will continue until the initially set targets are met,” he said yesterday.
“The President is in 24/7 contact with the Secretary of Defense and with all military commanders. It cannot be otherwise during the military special operation,” he added.
Lieutenant-General Roman Berdnikov, the commander of the Russian Western Forces responsible for this section of the front, was relieved of his command on Sunday, according to Ukrainian military intelligence.
Earlier, Russia’s Defense Ministry said its troops had withdrawn from the Kharkiv region to “regroup” on the east side of the Oskil River.
Ukraine launched a surprise attack on Russian lines last Tuesday with the aim of pushing the Russians away from Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and preparing a future attack on Izyum, a strategically important command and logistics center for Russia’s attack on Donbass.
An attack over the weekend triggered a Russian collapse that allowed Ukrainian forces to capture Izyum and Kupyansk, rail and road hubs that control Russian supply lines to Donbass.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said yesterday that in the previous 24 hours, 20 more settlements had been liberated and 500 square kilometers recaptured in the southern Kherson region, where a separate offensive began two weeks ago.
Sources on both sides reported fighting around the Russian-held city of Liman in the northern Donetsk region, which Ukraine attacked late last week.
Ukrainian media quoted military sources as saying that troops had captured near Svyatohirsk.
Pro-Russian war bloggers said Ukrainians also crossed the Siversky Donets River near Bilohorivka in the Luhansk region.
Russia announced attacks on recaptured areas. Ukraine said Russian attacks hit 15 locations across the country.
Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s defense minister, said the counteroffensive represented a new phase in the war, made possible by the delivery of western Himars missile systems.
“The counteroffensive is the third phase” of Ukraine’s plan to retake territory, said Oleksii Reznikov Le Monde.
The first phase was an attempt to dissuade Russia from pressing ahead with its attack, and the second was aimed at “stabilizing the front and testing its resilience.”
Kharkiv region governor Oleh Syniehubov said Ukrainian troops had reached the Russian border to the north and east of the city. A video posted online showed Ukrainian troops closing the barrier at a Ukrainian border post, replacing a stop sign removed by the Russians.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Kharkiv, said Ukraine shelled a Russian border post, killing one person. The report could not be confirmed.
Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said electricity and water had been restored to 80 percent of the city’s population by yesterday afternoon.
Russian missile attacks on the power grid and the largest power plant in Kharkiv caused power outages in large parts of eastern Ukraine on Sunday evening.
The strikes provoked an angry reaction from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
In a direct message to Mr Putin, he said the Russian leader did not understand who he was fighting and insisted Ukraine would not be deterred by such attacks.
Telegraph Media Group Limited 
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/ukrainians-battle-on-to-border-after-liberating-kharkiv-41983845.html Ukrainians fight to the border after the liberation of Kharkiv