Russia Sees 'Major Defeat,' Ukraine Has 'Already Won': Ex-Military Leader

Igor Girkin, a former commander of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, said on Saturday that Ukrainian troops have "already won" the war against Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of the Eastern European country on February 24, and was met with a strong defense effort from Ukraine, which was bolstered by military aid from its allies. Despite the vast size of Russia's military, Moscow has failed to achieve any major goals. Ukrainian forces launched counteroffensives in recent days in Kherson and the Kharkiv region in an effort to take back territory.

On Saturday, Ukrainian troops made significant gains near Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine—forcing Russia to retreat from key cities including Izium and Kupyansk, according to Radio Free Europe.

Girkin, who also goes by Igor Strelkov, has long been seen as an anti-Ukraine hardliner. However, he acknowledged Ukraine's victory in a Telegram post Saturday.

Igor Girkin says Russia suffers "major defeat"
Above, Igor Girkin, who also goes by Igor Strelkov, delivers a press conference in Donetsk on July 28, 2014. Girkin on Saturday said Russia suffered a “major defeat” after Ukraine retook the city of Kupyansk. BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images

He wrote that Russia suffered a "major defeat" in Kharkiv amid reports that Russian troops fled Kupyansk, which has served as a major railway and logistics hub for the Kremlin since capturing the city in February. The British Defense Ministry said Saturday that Ukraine retaking the city would deliver a "significant blow" to Russia.

In his post, Girkin added that because Ukraine has "already won," Russia should now focus on preserving its troops.

"Now, in fact, our side can only talk about how to stop its further deepening and prevent the escalation of an operational defeat into a strategic one," he wrote. "Although, in general, it has already outgrown. "Battle for the initiative" the enemy has already won. Now we should talk about preventing the Armed Forces of Ukraine from encircling and destroying large formations of our troops."

Ukrainian victories in Kupyansk and Izium come just a day after Girkin said that Russian troops had only one or two days to launch counterattacks against Ukraine in Izium or face defeat.

"The question of the time of the counterattack is very acute: if the enemy manages to gain a foothold in the positions reached, pull up artillery and air defense, then it will be extremely difficult for our units to throw him back .... if at all (given the extremely low staffing, especially infantry) Maybe," he wrote in a Friday Telegram post.

On Saturday morning, Russian forces also retreated from Izium, according to the Russian-installed First Deputy Minister of Information of the DPR, Danylo Bezsonov, who described the situation as "bad."

British defense officials said the Kharkiv counteroffensive likely took Russia by surprise. After launching the counteroffensive on Tuesday, Ukrainian forces advanced more than 30 miles into territory previously held by Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a Friday night address that Ukrainian forces "liberated and took control of more than 30 settlements" in the Kharkiv region.

Newsweek reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment.