The latest agency reports lend some credence to the claim, with a spokesman for the Ukrainian General Staff quoted by AFP as saying that in the region, the “enemy’s main efforts are focused on ensuring the withdrawal of its units from the city of Kharkiv”.

Reuters journalists say the north-eastern city has been quiet for about two weeks.

Moscow is still reported to be bombarding nearby areas, however – including Dergachi, some 10km north of Kharkiv – and late on Friday, reports in the Russian media said Russian forces had hit an arms depot in the region.

Capturing Kharkiv was a key Russian objective, and the city was heavily shelled during the invasion, leading to hundreds of civilians being killed. In his latest video address, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine’s forces were doing everything possible to liberate the country.

Meanwhile, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence has said the war with Russia will reach a turning point in mid-August and is likely to be over by the end of the year.

In an interview with Sky News, Major General Kyrylo Budanov said that “the breaking point will be in the second part of August” and “most of the active combat actions will have finished by the end of this year.”

“As a result, we will renew Ukrainian power in all our territories that we have lost including Donbas and the Crimea.”

He added that Russia losing the war will lead to a coup against Russian President Vladimir Putin, which he claimed was already underway. The BBC has not verified this claim.

He also claimed that President Putin was in a “very bad psychological and physical condition and he is very sick.” Such a claim has not been substantiated.

BBC/Simeon Ugbodovon


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