For the first time since their country was invaded in February, there is real optimism in Ukraine that the war with Russia will end soon, according to contributors to the latest edition of the Sky News Ukraine War Diaries podcast.

This week, after months of stalemate, Ukrainian forces launched a surprise counteroffensive, which they say has resulted in significant territorial gains in the bitterly disputed region of Donbass.

“Ukrainian forces launched the offensive operation in the northern and eastern part of the Kharkiv region. What the Russians had been trying to occupy for a few months, we managed to retake [in] five to six days,” says Ilyas, whose wife and two children are currently refugees in Poland.

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“It feels like all the people here, around me, they have this ray of light in their lives because we see the operation taking place successfully,” he continues.

“And people also become very motivated and inspired, and you feel like everything comes back to normal at some point.

“I know at some point we will have an operational break and it won’t be like this all the time, but what we are seeing now is an absolute miracle.”

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Ukrainian military volunteer Seva next to a modified SUV he picked up in Ireland this week, bound for the front line.

Supported by military aid from the United States and Europe, Ukrainian forces claim to have recaptured more than 6,000 km2 in the east of the country.

It is a region familiar to the military volunteer Seva. He is originally from Dnipro, but for the past five months he has been supplying frontline soldiers in Donbass.

Speaking from Poland, while returning from a mission in Europe to pick up a modified SUV for the frontline, Seva says the past week has been “pretty intense”.

“We have the occupied Kharkiv region, it is a great success for us, and we hope that everything will go in the same direction.

“It was really great when people stopped and showed the big finger [thumbs up]and wishing us victory, and wishing us to occupy our territories, and gain Russia.

“So many people smiled when I drove by [SUV] and waving his hand. It was a really good, good, great feeling.”

Oksana
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Oksana has been recording diaries for Sky News since the early days of the war

But, despite this week’s military success, Kyiv resident Oksana found news of alleged war crimes in the recaptured territories distressing.

“To see people who have been under occupation for almost six months welcoming our soldiers is [both] so heartbreaking and heartwarming.”

She says it reminds her of Bucha. At the start of the war, Sky News verified two videos showing bodies on the streets of the city, including one with at least seven corpses on the pavement. Satellite imagery showed evidence of 45ft makeshift mass graves. Russia has denied any responsibility.

Oksana sees the similarities though.

“You know, reading about the horrors that happened during the occupation, it’s like a lot of little Buchas in the Kharkiv region with torture chambers, with you know, all the terrors that the Russian army brings to Ukraine.”

From the creators of Sky News’ award-winning StoryCast series, Ukraine War Diaries is a weekly podcast that follows those living on Europe’s new frontline and those who have escaped it.

Producer: Robert Mulhern

Digital Promotion and Additional Writing: David Chipakupaku

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