Ukraine counterattacks could see Russian troops 'encircled' and Kyiv offensive halted

ITV News Correspondent John Ray reports on one moment Ukrainian troops claim they stopped Russia's advance

Successful Ukrainian counterattacks could see Russian troops encircled in Bucha and Irpin and will likely leave the Russian advance on Kyiv at a pause, according to the British Ministry of Defence.

In an update from the MoD on Wednesday night, officials said: "Ukraine is increasing pressure on Russian forces north-east of Kyiv. Russian forces along this axis are already facing considerable supply and morale issues.

It added: "It is likely that successful counter attacks by Ukraine will disrupt the ability of Russian forces to reorganise and resume their own offensive towards Kyiv."

It comes as the US officially accused Russia of having committed war crimes in Ukraine, with the Biden administration pledging it will work with others to prosecute offenders.Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “I can announce that, based on information currently available, the US government assesses that members of Russia’s forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine."

The statement was made as Mr Blinken and Joe Biden travelled to Brussels for a Nato summit.Mr Blinken said they would share their information with their allies and cited attacks on the civilian population in the besieged city of Mariupol and elsewhere.The assessment was based on a “careful review” of public and intelligence sources since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last month, he said.

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The announcement comes as Ukraine has regained ground in recent days, taking back some towns from Russian forces.

Nato said it believed 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in four weeks of war in Ukraine. By way of comparison, Russia lost about 15,000 troops over 10 years in Afghanistan.

Officials in Makariv, west of Kyiv, say the Ukrainian flag is flying in the town once more.

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A US spokesperson says the Ukrainians are also turning the tide in the south of the country. Elsewhere, Russian troops were pushed back in Voznesensk, as the Ukrainians destroyed a military convoy.

Additionally, Ukrainians are working hard to regain ground in Kherson, which was the first city to fall to the Russians.

Despite the work of the Ukrainian forces, it is thought their Russian counterparts are regrouping as they look to envelope those fighting against them in the east of the country.

Russian forces are continuing their bombardment of Mariupol where rescue workers and drivers from a humanitarian convoy trying to get desperately needed food and other supplies into the city were captured by Russian troops.

Drone footage shows the damage in Mariupol

Mariupol has faced weeks of sustained attacks which have razed parts of the city to the ground and left those trapped in the city burying the dead in the streets.

The reported captured of 11 bus drivers and four rescue workers, by Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also accused Russian forces of blocking the aid convoy despite agreeing to the route ahead of time.

“We are trying to organise stable humanitarian corridors for Mariupol residents, but almost all of our attempts, unfortunately, are foiled by the Russian occupiers, by shelling or deliberate terror,” Mr Zelenskyy said.

In his daily late night address to the nation, Mr Zelenskyy said he estimated that 100,000 civilians remained in the city of 430,000, adding there is "nothing left" of it.

The Red Cross confirmed a humanitarian aid convoy trying to reach the city had not been able to enter.

ITV News Correspondent Geraint Vincent reports from Lviv as people continue to leave Ukraine

Boris Johnson spoke to President Zelensky on Wednesday. A Downing Street spokesman said: “President Zelensky updated on the latest developments on the ground, and the Prime Minister reiterated his admiration for the bravery of the Ukrainian armed forces and their success in repulsing Russia’s onslaught.“He said the bombardment of civilian areas, including the siege of Mariupol, is unconscionable and demands a response from the international community.“The Prime Minister set out his intention to use tomorrow’s G7 and Nato meetings to increase the pressure on Vladimir Putin’s regime and work with partners to substantively increase defensive lethal aid to Ukraine.“Leaders would look to address Ukraine’s requests and ensure President Zelensky is in the strongest possible position in ongoing peace talks.“The Prime Minister and President Zelensky agreed to continue to remain in close contact in the coming days.”

Rageh Omaar looks at where Russia are trying to make gains

Asked on CNN what Russian President Vladimir Putin had achieved in Ukraine, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: “Well, first of all, not yet. He hasn’t achieved yet.” But he insisted that the military operation was going “strictly in accordance with the plans and purposes that were established beforehand".

Mr Putin’s aims remain to “get rid of the military potential of Ukraine” and to “ensure that Ukraine changes from an anti-Russian centre to a neutral country,” Mr Peskov said.

He also warned that Mr Putin could use nuclear weapons if Russia faced "an existential threat".

Russia's far stronger, bigger military has many Western military experts warning against overconfidence in Ukraine's long-term odds. Russia's practice in past wars in Chechnya and Syria has been to grind down resistance with strikes that flattened cities, killed countless civilians and sent millions fleeing.

But Russian forces appeared unprepared and have often performed badly against Ukrainian resistance.

The invasion has driven more than 10 million people from their homes, almost a quarter of Ukraine's population, according to the United Nations.

Thousands of civilians are believed to have died. Estimates of Russian military casualties vary widely, but even conservative figures by Western officials are in the low thousands.