Ukraine’s armed forces recaptured 3 sq km of territory around the battered city of Bakhmut last week, officials said on Monday, wresting back land taken by Russian forces this summer.

Russian forces, spearheaded by the Wagner mercenary group, captured the city of some 70,000 in May after months of fierce fighting.

But as part of summer offensive operations, Kyiv’s forces have been making steady progress around the city in recent weeks.

“In the Bakhmut sector, three square kilometers (1.2 square miles) were liberated last week,” Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar told state television.

“In total, 40 square kilometers have been liberated on the southern flank of the Bakhmut sector,” she added.

She explained that Ukrainian forces had been diverted from offensive operations around the town – captured by Russian forces in May – citing building Russian pressure in the Kharkiv region.

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"It was important for the enemy to divert our forces in other directions, so we could not concentrate our forces for the offensive in the Bakhmut sector," Malyar said.

Ukrainian forces have also been pressing against deeply entrenched Russian troops in the country’s south, in two regions the Kremlin said it had annexed last year.

Maliar said Ukrainian forces had been pushing toward the captured towns of Melitopol and Berdyansk, adding that “hostilities are continuing in Urozhaine,” a settlement on the southern front in the Donetsk region.

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“We have certain successes there. Our forces also had certain successes on the south of Staromaiorske,” the deputy defense minister said, referring to another nearby town.

Maliar also confirmed that Ukrainian troops had conducted “certain tasks” on the left bank of the Dnipro River in the Kherson region.

The river was rendered the de facto front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces in the region after Kyiv recaptured the territory’s district capital, the city of Kherson, in November.

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“We can’t reveal the details, but we’ve completed these tasks. In order to entrench there, we need to dislodge the enemy and clear the territory,” Maliar said.

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