Ukraine claims 20 settlements captured from Russia in lightning advance

Will Ukraine press on, or pause to consolidate an unexpected battlefield success, asks ITV News correspondent Robert Moore

Ukrainian troops retook further swathes of territory from Russia on Monday, pushing all the way back to the northeastern border in some places.

They also claimed to have captured many Russian soldiers as part of a lightning advance that forced Moscow to make a hasty retreat.

A spokesman for Ukrainian military intelligence said Russian troops were surrendering en masse as “they understand the hopelessness of their situation," while the military claimed it had freed more than 20 settlements in 24 hours.

In recent days, Kyiv’s forces have captured territory at least twice the size of greater London, according to the Ministry of Defence.

After months of little discernible movement on the battlefield, the momentum has lifted Ukrainian morale and provoked rare public criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war.

The mood has been jubilant across Ukraine over the past twenty-four hours.

Russian troops have retreated from around Kharkiv, which has been badly damaged by the fighting. Credit: PA

In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city and the capital of the region where the gains have been made, authorities hailed that power and water had been restored to about 80% of the region's population following Russian attacks on infrastructure that knocked out electricity in many places across Ukraine.

The buoyant mood was also captured by a defiant President Volodymyr Zelenskyy late on Sunday.

The Ukrainian leader posted to social media: “Do you still think you can intimidate, break us, force us to make concessions?"

“Cold, hunger, darkness and thirst for us are not as scary and deadly as your ‘friendship’ and 'brotherhood.'"

Meanwhile, in Russia, there were some signs of disarray as Russian military bloggers and patriotic commentators chastised the Kremlin for failing to mobilise more forces and take stronger action against Ukraine.

“People who convinced President Putin that the operation will be fast and effective ... these people really set up all of us,” Boris Nadezhdin, a former parliament member, said on one talk show.

“We’re now at the point where we have to understand that it’s absolutely impossible to defeat Ukraine using these resources and colonial war methods.”

People walk past a destroyed building in Kharkiv Credit: PA

Some in Russia blamed Western weapons and fighters for the losses.

“It’s not Ukraine that attacked Izium, but NATO,” read a headline in the state-supported Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, referring to one of the areas where Russia said it has withdrawn troops.

Denis Pushilin, head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, acknowledged that the situation was “difficult.”

The Ministry of Defence said the retreat would likely further deteriorate the trust Russian forces have in their commanders and put Moscow's troops on the back foot.