Russia on Saturday announced that its troops were retreating from key areas in the eastern Kharkiv region after a counterattack by Ukraine, the BBC reported.

The Russian defence ministry said that its troops have retreated from Izyum and Balaklyia “to regroup” and “bolster the force’s efforts on the Donetsk front”, which is around 767 km from Kyiv.

Izyum was a major base for Russian forces in the Kharkiv region, according to the Associated Press.

Media reports said that this is Moscow’s worst defeat since its troops were forced back from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in March.

Russia’s invaded Ukraine on February 24. The Kremlin described its actions as a “special operation” to demilitarise and “de-Nazify” Ukraine. However, Kyiv and several Western nations have said that this is a baseless pretext for a war of choice by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A woman rides a bike past a destroyed building in Balakliya, Kharkiv region on September 10. | Juan Barreto/AFP

As per the United Nations human rights office, the conflict has killed at least 5,767 people as of September 9.

On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that his country’s armed forces have liberated about 2,000 square kilometres of territory in a counter-offensive against Russia which had started earlier this month, according to the Associated Press.

“The Russian army these days is demonstrating its best ability – to show its back,” he said in a video message. “And, of course, it’s a good decision for them to run.”

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Ukrainian forces had demonstrated they were capable of defeating the Russian army with the weapons given to them, according to Al Jazeera.

“And so I reiterate: the more weapons we receive, the faster we will win, and the faster this war will end,” he said.

Meanwhile, the administration of Russian-controlled parts of the Kharkiv region recommended that its residents evacuate to Russia in order to save their lives, according to the BBC.