Ukraine reported Monday that its forces had pushed Russian troops back from the northeastern city of Kharkiv.
Some of the troops pushed even farther north from Kharkiv to reach the Russian border, Ukrainian defense officials said. The claims could not be independently confirmed. Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second largest city after Kyiv.
The Associated Press reported that a group of soldiers documented their push to the Russian border in a video. The video was published Sunday on Facebook by Ukraine’s defense ministry.
The video showed a group of about 12 soldiers gathered around a wooden post painted in blue and yellow -- Ukraine’s colors. The soldiers placed the post in the ground in a sign of victory. It was not clear exactly where the video was shot.
If confirmed, Ukraine’s latest success against Russian forces would signal another gain in momentum for Ukrainian troops in the conflict. The war began when Russian troops launched an invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Kharkiv sits about 50 kilometers south of Russia’s border. The city had experienced weeks of heavy Russian bombardments. Russia’s retreat from the city comes after the country’s failure to capture Ukraine’s capital Kyiv earlier in the war.
As fighting continued across Ukraine, international efforts to punish Russia for its aggression pressed ahead.
In Brussels, European Union (EU) officials met Monday to consider additional economic sanctions against Russia. The EU has already proposed a ban on Russian oil imports. But several small nations, led by Hungary, have opposed the ban because they are highly dependent on Russian oil.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters that diplomats were working to resolve the concerns of nations opposed to the ban. But he added, "I cannot ensure that it is going to happen because positions are quite strong.”
Existing sanctions against Russia, along with weapons assistance provided by Western nations, have helped Ukraine’s forces slow Russia’s offensive.
Still, thousands of people have been killed in Ukraine during the war. The dead include many civilians. Major cities have been heavily bombed and more than six million people have fled their homes to seek refuge in neighboring states.
Russia, which calls its invasion of Ukraine a "special military operation," has denied targeting civilians during the conflict.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Sunday that the war “is not going as Moscow had planned." He added: “Ukraine can win this war.”
In another defeat for Russia, Sweden was expected Monday to officially declare its decision to join NATO. Finland made a similar move last week. The decisions mark a clear change for the two Nordic nations, which have long held positions of neutrality.
During a debate in parliament in Stockholm, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson explained Sweden’s new change in policy. "Europe, Sweden and the Swedish people are living now in a new and dangerous reality," she said.
Russia’s government has warned of "far-reaching consequences" if the two nations move forward with their plans to join NATO.
In another development, American-based restaurant company McDonald's announced it was closing its 847 stores in Russia because of the conflict. The move comes after many other Western companies sold off their Russian properties to support international sanctions.
In a statement, McDonald's said the company had decided it can no longer do business in Russia. It said the “humanitarian crisis” had resulted in an “unpredictable operating environment.”
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Reuters and The Associated Press reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English.
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Words in This Story
post – n. a stick or pole that is placed in the ground to support something or to hold a sign
momentum – n. the way in which something continues to move, increase or develop
retreat – v. to move away from a place or person in order to escape from fighting or danger
sanction – n. an order given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting trade with that country
ensure – v. to make sure that something happens
consequence – n. the result of an action or situation