Soldiers hold flags as they speak in front of destroyed buildings in Klishchiivka, Ukraine, as seen in this screen grab taken from a social media video released 17 September 2023; Credit: Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, Commander of Ground Forces/via Reuters

(Reuters) - On Monday 18 September 2023, Ukraine reported its troops had recaptured more territory on the eastern front and advanced in the south in its military counteroffensive against Russian forces.

Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said Kyiv's forces had retaken 2 km2 of land in the past week around the shattered eastern city of Bakhmut, which was captured by Russian troops in May 2023 after months of fighting.

Kyiv's forces also recaptured two villages on the southern flank of the city, Andriivka and Klishchiivka, Maliar said.

Both cities lie on higher ground and their capture could set the stage to reasserting control over the pivotal city.

Kyiv's troops have liberated 51 km2 near Bakhmut since the start of the counteroffensive, Maliar said.

Further south in the Donetsk region, Ukrainian troops continued to hold back a Russian offensive towards the towns of Avdiivka and Maryinka, Maliar said.

Ukrainian forces are trying to advance toward the Sea of Azov in a southern drive intended to split Russian forces retook 5.2 km2 in the past week, said Maliar.

Overall, Ukraine regained more than 260 km2 in the south during the counteroffensive, she said.

During its three-month-old counteroffensive, Ukraine has reported slow, steady progress against entrenched Russian positions, retaking a string of villages and advancing on the flanks of Bakhmut, but taking no major settlements.

President Volodymyr Zelensky and other officials have dismissed Western critics who say the offensive is too slow and hampered by strategic errors.

Reuters was not able to verify the reports and Russia has not confirmed the Ukrainian advances.