Ukrainian forces push Russian troops near Kharkiv back towards border, US official says

Pentagon noted that Russia has committed close to 80 per cent of its war battalion

A Russian serviceman fires a mortar during fighting in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine. EPA / Russian Defence Ministry
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Ukrainian forces mounting a counteroffensive in the eastern city of Kharkiv and its surroundings have pushed the Russian military back to within three or four kilometres of the border, a senior US defence official said on Monday.

“In the last 24 hours, you continue to see that Ukrainians regained some ground around Kharkiv,” the official told reporters.

British military intelligence officials on Sunday said that one third of the Russian troops sent into Ukraine have been killed or injured and that Moscow has lost momentum in the fight for the eastern Donbas region.

Crosses, flowers and photographs mark the graves of those who died in the battles for Irpin and Bucha, Ukraine. Getty Images

The US official could not confirm the assessment but said that Russia “has lost quite a bit” in Ukraine, noting that Moscow has committed 80 per cent of its total battalion tactical groups to the war.

The official said Russia now has 106 battalion tactical groups inside Ukraine, and the groups usually comprise about 800 troops.

The Pentagon official described Russian progress in eastern Ukraine as “uneven, slow, incremental, short and small”, but acknowledged some gains for Moscow to the west of Donetsk.

And Russian President Vladimir Putin “still has a significant majority” of combat power available to him, the official added.

Still, weapons and equipment from the US and other allies are making a difference in the fight, the Pentagon assessed.

“In the last 24 hours, there were 10 [security] deliveries via airlift from seven different nations,” the official said.

Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine at the end of February, causing Europe's largest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

A third of the population of Ukraine is now displaced, with more than 6.1 million people having fled the country.

Updated: May 16, 2022, 7:32 PM