Ukrainian authorities say that in the last week, the country’s forces have regained control of at least 11 villages in the region of Kharkiv.
Most of them were occupied by Russian troops for more than two months.
In Washington on Monday, a senior US defense official said that Ukrainian forces had managed in the last 48 hours to push Russian forces further away from Kharkiv, even under Russian aerial bombardment.
You russians they have now been pushed some 40 kilometers east of the city, further into the Donbas region, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the US military assessment.
The outskirts of Kharkiv feel like an open-air morgue, where the dead lie unclaimed and unexplained, sometimes for weeks on end, while Ukrainian and Russian forces fight for control of pieces of land.
There is the charred body of a man, unidentifiable, leaning against an anti-tank barrier made of crossed X-beams outside a city that has been under the control of both sides in recent days.
There are the dead, apparently Russian soldiers, four of them arranged in a Z like the military symbol found on Russian armored vehicles, visible to the Russian drones that continually buzz overhead.
An apartment door opens to three bodies inside.
Precisely how this all came about will likely never be known.
Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, has been under Russian attack since the start of the war in late February. With the Russian offensive intensifying in the east, the Russian attack grew fiercer.
Considered a strategic and industrial prize, the territory on the outskirts of the eastern city has been alternating between Russian and Ukrainian forces for weeks as fighting shifts from village to village.
Many, but not all, of Kharkiv’s 1 million people fled.
Associated Press journalists saw the Z-shaped bodies, with the white armbands commonly worn by Russian soldiers and with some Russian medical kits beside them.
They were found on a front line where fighting had been going on for days.
They, along with the burned man, were taken to a morgue on Monday the 2nd.
There was no explanation for the Z formation – symbol of the Russian invasion – nor for the burned body leaning against the barrier.
Anyone could be considered a war crime, for disrespecting the dignity of the dead.
Next will come the investigation into their identities, perhaps an attempt to notify the family. But even that is difficult to untangle.
The body of a man with Ukrainian insignia was revealed to have the identity documents of a Russian soldier.
The apartment where the three bodies were found was severely bombed, but it was unclear what killed them.
Bombings and airstrikes are a daily threat everywhere here, for everyone.
And as long as that’s true, death can come at any moment, with no one around to answer why.
Getting a full picture of the battle unfolding in the east has been difficult because air strikes and artillery barrages have made it extremely dangerous for reporters to move around.
Both Ukraine and Moscow-backed rebels fighting in the east have also introduced strict restrictions on combat zone reporting.