A Ukrainian woman carries her pet dog on Monday as she walks among debris in front of a damaged residential building after shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photo by Sergey Kozlov/EPA-EFE
Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Ukrainian officials said Monday that its forces have captured more territory as part of its lightning counteroffensive in the northeastern part of the country that has surprised many, including Moscow.
The military push in the Kharkiv region began a few days ago and has resulted in significant territorial gains for Kyiv. Russia has tried, but failed to win control of the Kharkiv area since the war began on Feb. 24.
Ukrainian officials said Monday that it captured more villages and pushed Russian troops all the way back to the northeastern border.
The sweeping victories have become some of the most significant achievements of the entire war for Ukraine and could potentially signal a shift in the outcome.
So far, Ukraine's military has reclaimed hundreds of miles after the counteroffensive stunned Russian forces and prompted Moscow to pull troops entirely from some areas over the past few days.
Analysts say that Russia's military was perhaps too focused on other areas, such as Kherson in the southeast, to see what was coming around Kharkiv.
"The Ukrainian success resulted from skillful campaign design and execution that included efforts to maximize the impact of Western weapons systems," the Institute for the Study of War said according to CNBC.
U.S. officials were hopeful the Ukrainian counteroffensive would be a major setback for Russia -- but they also expressed some doubt that the Ukrainian army can keep up the momentum over the long term. Photo by Vasiliy Zhlobsky/EPA-EFE
The Russian military confirmed the territorial losses near Kharkiv and released a map showing that its forces had abandoned nearly all its positions in the region and drawn back 10 miles east of Izium, a city that Moscow had been using as a critical operational base.
Russian forces were said to be extremely outnumbered during the surprising counteroffensive.
Officials say the Ukrainian army has recaptured at least 20 towns and villages that were under Russian control. Ukrainian army commander Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said Kyiv's troops had liberated more than 1,100 square miles of territory.
Russian soldiers soon regrouped and retaliated with air raids and long-range missile strikes that briefly knocked out power and utilities to parts of the region.
Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's chief spokesman, said on Monday that the war -- which Russian officials have called a "special military operation" since the beginning -- would continue, despite the recent losses.
Peskov said that Putin is determined to "continue until all the goals that were initially set are achieved," according to the state-run TASS news agency.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials were hopeful that the counteroffensive would mean a major setback for Russian forces in the Eastern European country -- but they also expressed some doubt that the Ukrainian army can keep up the momentum over the long term.