Ukraine has claimed its troops have recaptured three Russian-held villages in its southeast, the first liberated settlements since launching a counteroffensive.
In an unverified video published on Sunday by Ukraine's 68th Jaeger Brigade, which identified the settlement as Blahodatne in the Donetsk region, soldiers can be seen raising the Ukrainian flag over a bombed-out building.
On television, Valeriy Shershen, a spokesman for Ukraine's "Tavria" military sector, said, "We're seeing the first results of the counteroffensive actions, localized results."
According to a statement by Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar, Ukraine forces retook Makarivka, the next village to the south, by advancing between 300 and 1,500 meters (985-4,920 feet) in two directions on the southern front.
On Telegram, a Ukrainian territorial defense unit also uploaded unverified footage of its soldiers displaying their flag in Neskuchne, the village closest to Ukrainian positions in the region.
"No positions were lost in directions where our forces are on the defensive," Maliar continued.
In his nightly video address, the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, praised his forces but did not mention the reported fighting areas.
"Of course, I am grateful to our soldiers for today," Zelenskyy said, alluding only to the two primary combat zones in the east and south.
"Every one of our combat brigades, every one of our units."
Myroslav Semeniuk, a spokesman for the Jaeger Brigade, told the Associated Press that an assault squad captured six Russian soldiers in Blahodatne, near the border of the Donetsk and Zaporizhia regions.
"The enemy continues to bombard us, but this will not deter us," Semeniuk said. "Urozhayne is the next village we intend to reclaim. After that, we'll continue southward."
Russian military bloggers close to the Kremlin wrote that Moscow's fighters abandoned Blahodatne out of dread of being encircled.
'Kicking The Enemy Out'
Sunday, the Russian defense ministry maintained that it was repelling Ukrainian attacks in the region. It stated that Ukrainian attempts at offensive operations on the southern Donetsk and Zaporizhia axis of the front line had been "unsuccessful" over the past 24 hours.
Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed official in the Zaporizhia region, asserted that Blahodatne and two other villages were ungoverned.
With so little information and independent reporting from the front lines, assessing the battlefield situation has been nearly impossible.
"We are expelling the adversary from our homelands. It is the warmest sensation possible. Ukraine will triumph, Ukraine above all else," a soldier from Blahodatne said in an unidentified video.
The occupied southeast is likely to be a priority for Kyiv's forces, as recapturing territory there would position Ukraine to threaten Russia's land bridge to the occupied Crimean Peninsula and divide Russian forces in two.
Makarivka is located 90 kilometers (300 miles) northwest of Mariupol, on the southern border of the land bridge at the Sea of Azov. After weeks of besieging and bombardment, Russia captured the main city last year.
Russia has constructed massive fortifications throughout the occupied territory in preparation for a Ukrainian counterattack by thousands of Western-trained and -equipped troops.
In her statement, Maliar added that Ukrainian forces were continuing offensive operations in the east near the destroyed city of Bakhmut and had advanced 250 meters (820 feet) close to the Berkhivka Reservoir.
Russia claimed to have captured the city of Bakhmut last month after the deadliest and longest battle since Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022, but Kyiv claims to be regaining ground on the city's flanks.
Meanwhile, Zelenskyy's senior adviser reported that six people were injured when Russian troops opened fire on a boat evacuating people from flooded areas to Ukrainian-held territory after the Kakhovka dam was breached last week.
In the most recent upheaval following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine sixteen months ago, the detonation of a dam flooded vast areas of southern Ukraine.
The president's chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, posted on his Telegram account that the injured were transported to a hospital in the city of Kherson in the south. An AP team on the scene observed three ambulances delivering injured evacuees to a hospital, one of whom was covered in blood and rushed into the emergency room on a stretcher.
Also on Sunday, the Russian military accused Ukrainian forces of assaulting one of its ships in the Black Sea, albeit unsuccessfully.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, six unmanned speedboats attempted to attack Russia's Priazovye reconnaissance vessel, which was "monitoring the situation and ensuring security along the routes of the TurkStream and Blue Stream gas pipelines in the southeastern Black Sea."
According to the ministry, the Russian military destroyed all the speedboats, and the ship sustained no damage. The claim could not be independently verified, and Ukrainian authorities made no immediate statement.
Sunday, Ukraine, and Russia reported exchanging dozens of war captives. Russia reported the release of 94 of its soldiers, while Yermak reported the release of 95 Ukrainians.