KHARKIV   -   Ukraine said Sunday that its forces were pushing back Rus­sia’s military from strategic holdouts in the east of the coun­try after Moscow announced a retreat from Kyiv’s sweeping counter-offensive.

In another hotspot of the con­flict in recent weeks, Ukraine’s nuclear energy agency said the final reactor at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power station, was shut off as a safety measure. The speed of Ukraine’s fight back against Russia’s inva­sion has apparently caught Mos­cow’s military off-guard, bringing swathes of territory Russia had controlled for months back into Ukraine’s fold. Crates of dumped munitions and abandoned mili­tary hardware were seen scat­tered in territory left by the Rus­sian forces, images posted by the Ukrainian military showed.

“The liberation of settlements in the Kupiansk and Izyum dis­tricts of the Kharkiv region is ongoing,” the Ukrainian mili­tary said in a general battlefield update Sunday, 200 days into Russia’s invasion. These are key supply and logistics hubs that Russia depends on to restock its frontline positions in the east and military observers have said their capture by Ukraine would be a serious blow to Moscow’s military ambitions in Kharkiv.

The head of the Ukrainian mil­itary announced early Sunday that as much as 3,000 square kilometres (1,158 square miles) had been wrested from Russia since the offensive began at the beginning of this month. That figure is already around one-third larger than the total area announced by President Volody­myr Zelensky late Saturday. On Sunday, he announced that Ukraine forces had taken a vil­lage of around 4,000 people be­tween Kharkiv and Izyum. “The great Ukrainian flag has been returned to Chkalovske. And it will be like that everywhere. We will cast out the occupiers from every Ukrainian town and vil­lage,” he said in a video online. Ukrainian officials this week­end hailed the “astonishing” pace of the counter-offensive and on Sunday, the country’s foreign minister used the mo­mentum to appeal to Western allies for more stockpiles of so­phisticated weapons.