Ukraine said on Monday that its forces had liberated the southeastern region of Rubin and were trying to advance south in their counteroffensive against Russian forces, while Moscow denied this.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry confirmed the advance of its troops in Zaporizhia and the recapture of the town of Robotin in the province, after announcing last week that it had raised the country's flag in Robotin, but was still carrying out clearance operations.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Ghana Maliar said in televised remarks on Monday: "Robotin has been freed, our forces are advancing southeast of Robotin and south of Mala Tokmachka."

Robotin lies in the zone between the control of Ukrainian and Russian forces, and the most important step in controlling it is to break through the first Russian defense line established by Moscow during its preparation for the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

But Russia has so far denied Ukraine's control of the town, says heavy fighting is taking place around it and has broadcast images of what it says was the destruction of U.S. armored vehicles during the fighting.

The capture of Robotin is one step in a long journey by Ukrainian forces for their counteroffensive that is supposed to end with the recapture of the cities of Militopol, Berdyansk and Mariupel, cutting off the road between Russia's positions of control in the east and Crimea.

Kiev launched a counteroffensive in June after gaining Western weapons and political and military support, but progress on the southern front is limited, sparking political debates about the success of the offensive in Western capitals over political and military support for Kiev.

Russia says fierce battles still taking place over Robotin (Al Jazeera)

Ukrainian forces are rammed into Russian defensive lines that include trenches and minefields kilometers deep, and have managed to retake some villages in the south while pressing the outskirts of Bakhamout to the east.

Maliar said Ukrainian forces were advancing south of Pakhmut and retook a square kilometre there during the last week of fighting.

It also acknowledged that Russian forces were pushing to retake areas in northeastern Ukraine, describing the fighting over the past week in the Kharkiv region as "very violent."

Russian reinforcements

Ukrainian officials estimated that Russia had sent about 100,<> additional troops to the front lines in the northeast to squeeze the defensive lines.

British intelligence services reported that Russia may try to push Ukraine to distract its efforts by strengthening its positions in Kharkiv (northeast).

While the front lines remain intact, the two sides continued air attacks, with Ukraine announcing today that two people were killed and several wounded in a Russian missile strike that targeted an industrial facility overnight in the central Poltava region, according to the Ukrainian presidency.

Kiev published photos showing officers standing near a large fire that engulfed part of a factory with plumes of black smoke rising.

At the same time, the Russian Defense Ministry announced the downing of a Ukrainian cruise missile off the coast of Crimea and announced the downing of two Ukrainian drones on the peninsula.

On the other hand, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for accelerating the completion of the infrastructure necessary for the work of the F-16 fighter jets.

CNN quoted Zelensky as saying that moving the war to Russian territory is fraught with danger, and that if this is done, Ukrainians will be left to their fate and Ukraine will remain alone. Zelensky indicated that it was possible to push for the demilitarization of Russia in Crimea by political means.