Putin Scrambles to Marshal Russian Forces as Ukraine Army Reaches Border

Russian President Vladimir Putin is scrambling to marshal his forces amid reports that Ukrainian troops are close to the Russian border.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday that the Russian leader is in constant contact with top officials within the military and the defense department.

"The President is in constant, one might say round-the-clock, communication with the minister of defense and with all the military leaders," Peskov said. He was responding to a question from reporters about how Putin has reacted to news that Russian commanders are withdrawing and regrouping troops from the Kharkiv region amid a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

"And of course it cannot be otherwise in the course of the special military operation," Peskov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting via a video link at the Kremlin on September 9. Putin is reportedly marshaling his military forces amid reports that Ukrainian forces are near the Russian border. GAVRIIL GRIGOROV/SPUTNIK/AFP/Getty Images

Peskov appeared to be referring to remarks by Vitaly Ganchev, a Russia-installed head of the military-civilian administration of the Kharkiv region, who told the Rossiya 24 TV channel Monday that Russian troops are severely outnumbered. Ganchev said Russian troops in the Kharkiv region were pulled out to preserve personnel, as Ukraine's armed forces outnumber them "by about eight times, no less."

The latest developments also come as a video of a Ukrainian soldier bragging about how close Ukrainian forces are to the Russian border has gone viral on social media.

The clip, posted on Visegrád 24, is captioned: "One of the first Ukrainian soldiers to reach the border with Russia in the northern part of the Kharkiv region records a video of the historic moment. The Russians are nowhere to be seen. How far into the country have they retreated?"

The soldier continues: "There's the sign marking the border with the Russians and there [behind me] a Ukrainian flag," according to a translation by Newsweek, which has not been able to confirm the authenticity of the footage.

The video follows reports that Russian troops were abandoning their positions in Kharkiv after Ukraine launched a surprise counteroffensive in early September.

The commander of Ukraine's military, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said Sunday his troops have regained 3,000 square kilometers (1,158 square miles) of territory from the Russians since the beginning of September. He also said that in the Kharkiv region they had pushed to within 50 kilometers—or roughly 30 miles—of the nation's border with Russia, Newsweek previously reported.

The head of the Kharkiv region, Oleg Sinegubov, said Sunday that the Ukrainian military had liberated more than 40 settlements in the region that were seized by Russia in the war's early days.

Videos have been shared online showing Kharkiv residents giving Ukrainian troops gifts in liberated towns.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry gave a daily briefing on Sunday with a map that showed its troops retreating behind the Oskil River in Kharkiv's eastern region. This came after the ministry said its troops decided to "regroup" and leave the Balakliya and Izyum areas.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment.

Update 9/12/22, 8:05 a.m. ET: This story has been updated with more background and information.