Russian forces fled from previously occupied parts of the Kharkiv region in an “apparent panic” during Ukraine’s successful counter-offensive, the Ministry of Defence has said.
In its latest intelligence update on the war, the MoD said Vladimir Putin’s forces had now largely withdrawn from the area west of the Oskil River.
In a landmark moment in the seven-month-long war, Ukraine made a series of rapid gains in eastern Ukraine over the weekend, retaking captured towns and cities including Izyum and Kupiansk.
The MoD said that while some Russian units withdrew from captured areas in “relatively good order”, others “fled in panic” — sometimes abandoning “high-value” equipment in the process.
“The way in which Russian forces have withdrawn in the last week has varied,” the MoD tweeted.
“Some units retreated in relatively good order and under control, while others fled in apparent panic.
“High-value equipment abandoned by retreating Russian forces included capabilities essential to enable Russia’s artillery-centric style of warfare. Amongst these are at least one ZOOPARK counter-battery radar and at least one IV14 artillery command and control vehicle.
“Such abandonment highlights the disorganised retreat of some Russian units and likely localised breakdowns in command and control.”
The MoD update comes after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky visited Izyum on Wednesday to thank troops for their role in seeing off Russian forces.
He vowed to take back any Ukrainian territory that was still under Russian control, adding: “Truth is on our side.”
Earlier this week the Ukrainian president claimed that troops have now retaken more than 6,000 sq km (2,317 square miles) from Russian control in these last few days of September alone.
Zelenskyy said: “From the beginning of September until today, our warriors have already liberated more than 6,000 sq km of the territory of Ukraine – in the east and south.
“The movement of our troops continues.”
The BBC said it had not been able to verify these numbers, but the MoD said on Monday that Ukraine had taken an area twice the size of Greater London.
In retaliation for Ukraine’s counter-attack, Russia attacked power stations and key infrastructure across Ukraine, including a power grid that forced Kharkiv into darkness on Sunday.
Meanwhile, eight cruise missiles aimed at water equipment hit Kryvyi Rih, a city 93 miles south-west of Dnipro. Zelensky said the strikes appeared to be an attempt to flood the city and that a dam on a reservoir was hit.