The Ukrainian counteroffensive appears to have pushed Russian troops past the Ukrainian village of Ternova and back to the Russian border, according to unverified reports in both Forbes and the Daily Mail.
If confirmed, a retreat of the Russian troops from the area around Kharkiv would be a significant success for Ukraine, freeing up troops to fight in the south of the country and giving respite to the devastated city of Kharkiv. On the other hand, a Russian retreat would be a terrible humiliation for Moscow and yet another setback in the invasion of Ukraine, merely weeks after troops retreated from the areas surrounding Kyiv in early April under the Kremlin’s order.
U.S.-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its latest update on the unfolding war that Ukrainian forces have gained ground northeast of Kyiv as of May 11, forcing Russian troops “onto the defensive” and adding pressure for the Russians to seek reinforcement.
The ISW does not mention that Ukrainian troops have already advanced so much as to push back the enemy to the Russian border, but last weekend it declared that it could be a matter of days or weeks before that happens.
The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) wrote in its latest intelligence update dated May 12 that Ukrainian forces have recaptured several towns and villages towards the Russian border. It also confirmed that Russian troops were backing off and withdrawing units from the Kharkiv region to “reorganize and replenish its forces following heavy losses.”
“The withdrawal of Russian forces from the Kharkiv Oblast is a tacit recognition of Russia’s inability to capture key Ukrainian cities where they expected limited resistance from the population,” the MoD wrote.
In British intelligence’s assessment of the situation, once Russia reconstitutes its units, these forces will be likely deployed to the eastern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River to protect the troops’ main supply routes near Izyum.
Reinforcing troops northeast of Kyiv to fight off the Ukrainian counteroffensive would prevent Russia from boosting offensive in other areas of the country, which would play in favor of Ukraine.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine confirmed in its latest report on the Russian invasion that Russian troops near Kharkiv have not conducted any offensive in the last 24 hours but have moved to the defense.
The claims that Ukrainian troops pushed the enemy back to the Russian border are still unconfirmed, but they are in line with the latest updates from the north-eastern front.
On May 10, Russian news agency Readovka wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian troops were “not far” from the village of Vovchansk, which sits less than 7 miles away from the Russian border. The claims were not verified.
Ukrainian troops claim to have liberated a number of villages and towns in the heart of the Kharkiv region in the past few weeks, including the village of Ruska Lozova.
The war has now been ongoing for over two months, whereas many observers and intelligence experts believed Russia could have overwhelmed Ukraine in a matter of days. To this day, Moscow troops have failed to conquer any significant target in the country, and the war is widely expected to drag on.
Newsweek has contacted Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense and Russia’s Ministry of Defense for comment.