Ukraine on Wednesday (May 11) reported pushing back Moscow s forces in a counterattack that could signal a shift in the momentum of the war and shut gas flows on a route through Russian-held territory, raising the spectre of an energy crisis in Europe.
Ukraine s armed forces general staff said it had recaptured Pytomnyk, a village on the main highway north of the second largest city of Kharkiv, about halfway to the Russian border.
"The occupying forces moved to the defence in order to slow down the pace of the offensive of our troops," it said. "The settlement of Pytomnyk ... was liberated."
Following days of advances north and east of Kharkiv, one Ukrainian military source said on condition of anonymity that Ukraine s forces were within just several kilometres of the Russian frontier by Wednesday morning.
Beforehand, Russian forces had been on the outskirts of Kharkiv, a city 40km from the frontier.
The advance appears to be the fastest that Ukraine has mounted since it drove Russian troops away from the capital Kyiv and out of northern Ukraine at the beginning of April.
If sustained, it could let Ukrainian forces threaten supply lines for Russia s main attack force, and even put rear logistics targets in Russia itself within range of artillery.
In Vilkhivka, a shattered village east of Kharkiv, the thump of near constant artillery and swoosh of multiple rocket launchers could be heard from fighting at the front.
The Kremlin calls its actions in Ukraine a "special military operation" to demilitarise a neighbour threatening its security. It denies targeting civilians.
Ukraine says it poses no threat and that the deaths of thousands of civilians and destruction of towns and cities show that Russia is waging a war of conquest.