Ukrainian forces grab back swathes of Russian-occupied territory after launching stunning counter-attack

UKRAINIAN forces were grabbing back swathes of Russian-occupied territory last night after launching a stunning counter-attack.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said his troops had retaken 1,150 square miles of the north-eastern Kharkiv region.

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Ukrainian forces grabbed back swathes of Russian-occupied territory after launching a stunning counter-attackCredit: Reuters
President Volodymyr Zelensky said his troops had retaken 1,150 square miles of the north-eastern Kharkiv region

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President Volodymyr Zelensky said his troops had retaken 1,150 square miles of the north-eastern Kharkiv region

And Russians were running for their lives as President Vladimir Putin faced the most humiliating setback yet of his disastrous campaign.

Sweeping gains came after Russian generals were tricked into believing their enemy was focused on retaking the southern city of Kherson.

They moved thousands of men and weapons to the southern front to resist the fake offensive — leaving the door to the Kharkiv region wide open.

Ukraine special forces spokesman Tara Berezovets said: “It was a big special disinformation operation.

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“Russia thought it would be in the south and moved their equipment.

“Then, instead of the south, the offensive happened where they least expected, and this caused them to panic and flee.”

Ukraine’s success, if confirmed, would mean Mr Zelensky’s forces have tripled gains in recent weeks in the area in just 24 hours.

In the lightning advance on Saturday, Ukrainian troops entered the key towns of Kupiansk and Izium — which took Russia a month to take in March.

Battles were still raging for settlements around Izium yesterday after more than 30 towns and villages were retaken in the Kharkiv region.

Cheering civilians were pictured on social media lining streets to welcome their liberators shouting: “Thanks, boys!”

The scenes played out as bedraggled Russian units were seen retreating past burnt-out vehicles bearing the “Z” symbol of the invasion.

Pictures also showed troops raising Ukraine’s flag over Kupiansk — a railway hub on one of Russia’s main supply routes to the east.

Russia’s setback sparked unprecedented open attacks on warmonger Putin in Moscow yesterday — with even close allies piling in.

Chechen strongman Ramzan Kady­rov, who has supplied thousands of troops for Putin, said: “Mistakes have been made.

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Ukrainian troops pose for a photograph after retaking 1,150 square miles of the north-eastern Kharkiv region

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Ukrainian troops pose for a photograph after retaking 1,150 square miles of the north-eastern Kharkiv regionCredit: Reuters

“When truth is told to your face, you may not like it. It is clear that people were not prepared for this.”

And pro-war firebrand Igor Girkin sarcastically hailed “the brilliant operation to transfer the cities of Izium, Balakliya and Kupyansk to our respected Ukrainian partners”.

But former British Army commander General Sir Richard Barrons urged caution yesterday.

He said: “The Ukrainians saw an opportunity and did a very good job to seize it.

“There will be exuberance, over-selling, but Russia still sits on 20 per cent of Ukrainian territory.

“The battle for Kherson is what really matters strategically. This is going to go on for some time.”

Prof Michael Clarke: Bear’s on the back foot

THIS is a big moment. For the first time in this conflict, the Russians have been beaten in battle.

They’re not just withdrawing, like they did from Kyiv and Kharkiv after realising they had overstretched themselves.

Here in the Donbas, the Russians have lost — badly. They’ve collapsed.

Now, the most important thing for the Ukranians is to sustain this offensive.

They are fighting like a modern army. Their message to the West is clear: “We can beat the Russians if you keep supporting us.”

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