Ukraine’s President Zelensky has said there is “good news” about the recapture of several settlements from Russia in the eastern Kharkiv region.
Rumours have swirled for days about a possible breakthrough in the area, but with no word from Ukrainian officials.
Speaking in his nightly video address, Mr Zelensky said “now is not the time to name” the places “where the Ukrainian flag has returned”.
Ukrainian soldiers have launched an offensive south-east of Kharkiv, towards the eastern region of Donetsk, over which Russia has maintained substantial military control since the war began six months ago.
US officials said Ukraine was making “slow but meaningful progress” against Russian forces.
Some reports suggest Ukrainian forces may be a few dozen kilometres from the city of Izyum, an important link in Russia’s military supply chain.
Ukraine says it was responsible for Crimea attacks
Ukraine has claimed responsibility for a series of air strikes on Crimea after a month of uncertainty over who was behind them.
One of the attacks, which took place in early August, targeted Russia’s Saky military base and killed one person.
Ukraine had previously refused to acknowledge its role. Its defence minister had even blamed the airbase explosions on Russian soldiers’ discarded cigarettes.
But now Kyiv’s top commander Valeriy Zaluzhnyi has said Ukrainian rockets targeted a number of Crimean military sites, including the Saky airbase, which was rocked by multiple explosions on 9 August.
In an article for national news agency Ukrinform, he claimed the attack – against a base used by Moscow to launch attacks against Ukraine – took 10 Russian warplanes “out of action”.
It confirms widespread speculation that Ukraine was behind the incidents and signals a significant expansion of the conflict by Ukraine into Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
EU plans price cap on Russian gas
Meanwhile, as Europe struggles with soaring energy prices, the European Union’s executive body has proposed capping the price of Russian gas.
The plan is part of a series of measures outlined by European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen ahead of a meeting on Friday, where EU energy ministers will try to decide how to protect consumers and businesses from winter price rises.
“We must cut Russia’s revenues which Putin uses to finance this atrocious war,” she said.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the price cap proposal as stupid and said Moscow would react by halting supplies completely.
“We will not supply gas, oil, coal, heating oil – we will not supply anything,” he said, if it went against Russia’s interests.
Speaking at an economic forum in Vladivostok, he also said Russia was coping with Western economic “aggression”, while sanctions were hitting Europeans’ quality of life.
Captured Briton may have been tortured, says Ukraine
Wednesday also brought further news about a British man, Paul Urey, who is reported to have died in detention in July after being captured by pro-Russian separatists.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said in a tweet that “Russians” had now returned his body with “signs of possible unspeakable torture”, but he gave no further details.
Mr Urey, from Warrington, Cheshire, was detained at a checkpoint near the south-eastern city of Zaporizhzhia in April and accused of being a mercenary.
If proven, evidence of torture could potentially contradict earlier claims by Russian-backed officials that Mr Urey died in captivity on 10 July as a result of underlying health conditions and “stress”.
Mr Urey had type 1 diabetes and needed insulin. In July, Liz Truss, who was then foreign secretary and is now prime minister, said he had been captured while undertaking humanitarian work.
Ukraine suggests peacekeepers for nuclear plant
With concerns continuing over the Zaporizhzhia power station, Ukraine’s nuclear chief has suggested that United Nations peacekeepers could secure the plant.
The facility has been occupied by Russia since the early days of the war and come under repeated attack, with both sides blaming each other.
UN inspectors have recommended that a security zone be set up immediately to shield the facility, which is Europe’s largest, from the fighting.
Petro Kotyn, who runs Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom, suggested a UN peacekeeping contingent could set up a security zone at Zaporizhzhia and that Russian troops should withdraw.
Vladimir Putin has said he trusted the recent report from the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but criticised the agency for not saying Ukraine was to blame for shelling the area.