Ukraine hails first territory recaptured in counteroffensive

Ukraine hails first territory recaptured in counteroffensive

AL ZAJEERA - ‘First results’ of counterattack praised as Ukraine’s troops claim to take back villages in the eastern Donetsk region while Russia denies gains. 

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.

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.

“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.

“The enemy keeps shelling us but this won’t stop us,” Semeniuk said. “The next village we plan to reclaim is Urozhayne. After that, [we’ll proceed] further south.”

Russian military bloggers close to the Kremlin wrote that Blahodatne was abandoned because Moscow’s fighters feared encirclement.