Russian troops also appear to be retreating from the northern part of the Kharkiv region following a successful Ukrainian counterattack.
Residents of the village of Kozacha Lopan, 30 kilometers north of the Kharkiv metropolis, raised the Ukrainian flag, according to media reports.
It comes after Russian units reportedly left the village, about four kilometers from the Russian border and which was occupied at the start of the Russian invasion in late February.
Moscow announced on Saturday that it was withdrawing its troops from strategic towns in the south of the Kharkiv region. Officially, Moscow justified the withdrawal by saying that units from the neighboring Donetsk region needed to be reinforced.
However, many experts assume that the Russians have recently come under such pressure from the Ukrainian advance in the Kharkiv region that they have decided to flee.
Since early September, Ukrainian troops have taken over more than 3,000 square kilometers in a counter-offensive, according to their own statements.
According to previous figures, Russian troops occupied about 125,000 square kilometers in Ukraine, or one-fifth of the country’s territory, including the Crimean peninsula.
Ukrainian soldiers have retaken more territory in five days than Russian troops have occupied in total since April, according to American experts.
“The liberation of Izyum would be the most significant Ukrainian military achievement since the victory in the Battle of Kyiv in March,” the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its analysis of the situation on Sunday.
This means Russia’s planned advance into Donbass from the north has failed, experts said.
“A successful encirclement of Russian forces fleeing Izyum would result in the destruction or capture of significant Russian forces and exacerbate Russian manpower and morale problems,” the institute said.
The Washington-based think tank regularly publishes analyzes of the fighting in Ukraine since the start of the war. Sunday marks the 200th day of the Russian war.
Meanwhile, following the rapid advance of the Ukrainian army in the northeast of the country, not all Russian troops managed to withdraw, according to kyiv.
“In the Kharkiv region, enemy units of the 3rd Motorized Rifle Division of the 20th Army are cut off from supply routes and are in panic,” the Ukrainian General Staff said in its situation report on Sunday.
Casualties were high on the Russian side, with 400 killed in one day. The information could not be independently verified.
“Over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces have continued to make significant advances in the Kharkiv region,” UK intelligence said in their latest Twitter situation report.
After the heavy defeats around Kharkiv, Moscow revives the prospect of negotiations with kyiv.
“Russia does not reject negotiations with Ukraine, but the longer the process takes, the more difficult it will be to reach an agreement,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told state television.
The talks, which began shortly after Russia launched its war against the neighboring country on February 24, have been suspended for months.
Moscow blames kyiv for the breakdown of negotiations, but at the same time sets difficult conditions for peace, including heavy territorial losses.
At the same time, Ukraine continues to demand tanks and weapons from the West to keep pressure on Russian troops high. After a meeting with his counterpart Annalena Baerbock in Kyiv, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stressed that German Leopard 2 tanks were urgently needed.
Baerbock initially showed restraint on his surprise second visit to the war-torn country. Other prominent German coalition politicians have spoken out in favor of more deliveries, such as the Leopard 2 tank.
Also on Sunday, Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant was completely disconnected from the power grid and shut down.
“It has been decided to place reactor number six in the safest state – the cold state,” Ukraine’s nuclear authority Enerhoatom said on Sunday, referring to the plant’s last reactor.
Despite international warnings, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant has been under fire for weeks, and Russia and Ukraine blame each other for the escalating situation around the facility.
According to Enerhoatom, the besieged plant had already been operating in “island mode” for three days, which means that it only produced electricity for its own supply, since all the lines connecting it to the Ukrainian electricity grid had been broken by bombings.
On Saturday evening, a line to the electricity grid was restored. It was then decided to supply the nuclear power plant via this line and to shut down the last operating reactor and cool it to a safe cold state.
The plant had already experienced an emergency shutdown in August after the bombing of the site. Both parties traded blame for this. (dpa)