krainian forces have retaken seven square miles of territory in the east and the south in the past week, a defence minister said on Monday, as their counter-offensive makes slow progress.
Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar stressed that the advances brought the total territory recaptured so far during the counter-offensive to more than 210 sq km (81 square miles).
Ukraine launched its counter-offensive in June, aiming to retake occupied territory and seize the initiative in Russia’s full-scale invasion, now in its 17th month.
Ms Maliar said troops had retaken seven sq km (2.7 square miles) in the past week in the direction of Bakhmut in the east, a small town captured by Russian forces in May after the bloodiest combat of the war. That brought the total recaptured in the area to a reported 31 sq km (12 square miles).
In the south, where Ukrainian forces are trying to advance towards the cities of Berdyansk and Melitopol, they had recaptured nearly 11 sq km (four square miles) in the past week, bringing the total territory recaptured there to nearly 180 sq km (69 square miles).
Ms Maliar added that Russian forces have been advancing since the end of last week towards the city of Kupiansk in the eastern Kharkiv region.
Kyiv’s army has been hampered in making swift progress by extensive Russian defences, with large minefields, trench networks and barbed wire.
In a televised interview broadcast on Sunday, Vladimr Putin said: “All enemy attempts to break through our defences… have not succeeded since the offensive began. The enemy is not successful.”
However, overall Putin’s invasion has floundered, costing the lives of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers, with Ukraine’s military also suffering high casualties, and thousands of civilians killed in often indiscriminate Russian missile, drone and artillery attacks.