Ukraine Retakes Village Where Children Hid in School Basement for Months

Ukrainian forces were able to regain control of a Russian-occupied village where children lived in a kindergarten basement for more than two months, according to the commander in chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Valerii Zaluzhnyi said Monday in a Facebook post that Kutuzívka, which is located in the Kharkiv region, was freed from Russian forces in early May. About 170 residents were living in the school's basement, including 40 children between the ages of 3 months and 12 years, the commander in chief wrote.

"Ukrainian soldiers who liberated the village provided first aid to the locals, shared with them everything they needed - water, food, clothes," a translated version of the post read. "Our duty is to protect our people and our state. And we perform it with honor."

Frequent assessments of the Ukraine war from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) indicate that Russian progress in its offensive in the Donbas region has been slow-moving and even losing ground in some areas because of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. Russia, meanwhile, has been touting purported successes in the war, such as the destruction of arms supplied to Ukraine by the West. It has also asserted that its "special military operation" in Ukraine is going completely to plan.

Newsweek reached out to Russia's Defense Ministry seeking confirmation that Kutuzívka had been retaken by Ukrainian troops.

Kharkiv Village Freed From Russian Forces
Ukrainian forces were able to regain control of a Russian-occupied village where children lived in a kindergarten basement for more than two months, according to Ukraine's military commander. Above, uninhabited apartment buildings in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 21. John Moore/Getty Images

Zaluzhnyi also said in his post that 24 settlements have been freed from Russian control in the Kharkiv region, where the Ukrainian counteroffensive has reported several successes in recent weeks.

"Every day, destroying the enemy, liberating cities and villages from the invaders, rebuilding infrastructure, soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine put an end to the crimes of the Russian Federation against the civilians and prevent the commission of new ones," he wrote.

Zaluzhnyi did not list the names of any of the other settlements he said had been freed.

As of Monday, the ISW's frequently updated map on territorial control in Ukraine showed that Russia still holds a strip of land running from eastern to southern Ukraine. This includes the self-declared, Russian-backed Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics in the Donbas in the east and the Kherson region north of Crimea.

The ISW's Russian campaign assessment for Sunday said that Russian forces have made "only minimal gains" in eastern Ukraine.

"New reporting confirmed that Russian troops previously recaptured Rubizhne in northern Kharkiv Oblast, on May 19," the assessment read. "Russian forces are likely committing additional reinforcements to hold their positions on the west bank of the Siverskyi Donets River in northern Kharkiv—rather than withdrawing across the river to use it as a defensive position—to prevent any further Ukrainian advances to the north or the east that could threaten Russian lines of communication to the [Izium] axis."

Ukraine has said that the war will only end once it has regained control of all territory that was taken by Russia.

Newsweek reached out to the defense ministries of Russia and Ukraine for comment.