On Wednesday, Ukrainian forces reported battlefield successes in a counterattack that could herald a shift in the war’s momentum, while Kyiv shut down gas flows on a conduit through Russian-controlled territory, raising the threat of a European energy crisis.

 

The thump of near constant artillery and the swoosh of multiple rocket launchers could be heard in Vilhivka, a village east of Kharkiv held by Ukrainian forces, from fighting at the front, now pushed substantially further east, where Ukraine has been trying to capture the banks of the Donets river and threaten Russian supply lines on the far side.

 

One Ukrainian military source told Reuters that Ukrainian soldiers were within a few kilometers of the Russian border in the Kharkiv region on Wednesday morning, following days of advances.

 

After what appeared to be the fastest advances since April, when Ukraine pushed Russian forces back from Kyiv and the country’s north, Ukrainian forces appeared to be in control of the village of Rubizhne, on the banks of the Donets.

 

“It’s burned out, like all Russian tanks,” a Ukrainian soldier said outside the settlement, next to the remnants of one Russian tank. “The anti-tank weaponry are quite helpful.”

 

Russian forces were “gradually being pushed out of Kharkiv,” according to President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, though Kyiv has so yet verified few details of the progress in the region, preferring to be cautious.

 

The victories, according to Zelensky, have pushed the second-largest city, which has been under continual assault since the beginning of the war, beyond the range of Russian fire, but he warned Ukrainians not to get their hopes up just yet.

 

In a nocturnal video speech, he stated, “We should not create an atmosphere of extreme moral pressure, where triumphs are anticipated monthly, even daily.”

On Tuesday, the 92nd Mechanized Brigade told Reuters that it had recovered four villages north of Kharkiv, bringing Russian soldiers closer to the Ukrainian border.

The enemy is attempting to block our soldiers from going further toward the border in the Kharkiv region, according to the Ukrainian general staff.

 

In addition, Russia provided limited facts regarding the battle in the area.

On the ground in Vilhivka, a heavily damaged settlement liberated by Ukrainian forces weeks earlier but where few inhabitants had dared to return, Ukrainian progress could be seen.

With the Russians being driven further east in recent days, more civilians were returning to their houses to pick through the devastation. Outside the bombed-out classroom where his regiment had placed its headquarters before being pushed out, the bloated body of a Russian soldier still lay moldering.

supplies of gas

Ukraine cut off Russian gas supplies through territory controlled by Russian-backed rebels on Wednesday, marking the first time the conflict has directly impacted gas imports to Europe.

 

Gas exports from Russia’s monopoly Gazprom to Europe via Ukraine decreased by a quarter after Kyiv said it had to cease all flows from the Sokhranovka transit point in southern Russia due to Russian-backed rebels siphoning supplies.

 

If the supply cutoff continues, it will have the greatest direct impact on European energy markets of the war, which the Kremlin refers to as a “special military operation.”

 

Apart from the east, Russia has taken control of a large region of southern Ukraine, which Kyiv and its Western allies suspect Moscow is planning to use a phony vote on independence or annexation to extend its grip.

 

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that people of the Russian-occupied Kherson region could choose whether or not to join Russia, but that any such decision would need to be legally sound. An official in the Russian-controlled administration had previously told TASS that the area planned to petition President Vladimir Putin to merge it into Russia.

 

Russian soldiers have also continued to shell the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, Ukraine’s southern port.

 

According to Ukraine’s army staff, Moscow is attempting to conquer the destroyed city’s final stronghold of Ukrainian resistance.

Russia was bombarding the facility from the air and attempting to storm it, according to the Azov Regiment holed up inside. The reports of fighting there could not be independently verified by Reuters.

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