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Ukraine forces in Kharkiv push through to Russian border

On the battlefields near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, interior ministry adviser Vadym Denisenko said Ukrainian troops were mounting a counter-offensive

Ukrainian troops have pushed Russian forces back from the northeastern city of Kharkiv and some have advanced as far as the border with Russia, Ukrainian officials said on Monday.

The developments, if confirmed, would signal a further shift in momentum in favour of Ukraine nearly three months into a conflict that began when Russia sent tens of thousands of troops over the border into Ukraine on February 24.

Sweden meanwhile was expected to take a formal decision on Monday to apply to join Nato following a similar move by Finland - a change in the Nordic countries’ long-standing policy of neutrality brought on by the Russian invasion and concern about President Vladimir Putin’s wider ambitions.

On the battlefields near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, interior ministry adviser Vadym Denisenko said Ukrainian troops were mounting a counter-offensive.

“It can no longer be stopped... Thanks to this, we can go to the rear of the Russian group of forces,” he said.

Kharkiv, lying about 30 miles (50 km) from the border with Russia, had endured weeks of heavy Russian bombardments.

The Russian retreat from the city follows their failure to capture capital Kyiv.

President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that while Russia does not see Finland and Sweden's decision to join NATO as a threat, deployment of military infrastructure there may trigger a response from Moscow.

Putin, Russia’s paramount leader since 1999, has repeatedly cited the post-Soviet enlargement of the NATO alliance eastwards toward Russia’s borders as a reason for the conflict of Ukraine.

The expansion of Nato to Sweden and Finland poses “no direct threat for us... but the expansion of military infrastructure to these territories will certainly provoke our response,” Putin said during a televised meeting.

Russia said that it had agreed to evacuate wounded Ukrainian soldiers from the bunkers below besieged Azovstal steel works in Mariupol.

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